As a junior or senior (I can't remember which, all I know was I had a drivers license), we partnered with the local Westside Exchange Club of Indianapolis to provide the manual labor for their Christmas baskets. We showed up on December 22, in a cabinet shop somewhere off Washington Street in Indianapolis and we were quickly put to work assembling baskets with food and toys.
The following day, I borrowed my mom's green minivan and we went back to the cabinet shop to deliver the baskets we had prepared the day before.
Stop and think about this for a minute. There was no GPS in 1997-1998. I didn't have a cell phone, and if I did, I was told to only use it in case of emergency. And getting lost and calling for directions didn't constitute an emergency. And since we only had dial-up internet at home, I couldn't have called home for someone to MapQuest them (Google wasn't a verb then) because that would have taken forever. We had a paper map of Indianapolis and my mom's green minivan. I'm not even sure where I could get an updated paper map of Indianapolis today.
I know we delivered several baskets that day but I only remember one delivery. The last delivery of the day.
The paper said 11 people lived in the house, 4 adults and 7 children ranging in ages. So we loaded up the minivan with the basket and since it was the last delivery, any extra food and toys were thrown in as well.
We found the house and knocked on the door. The men that came to the door had no shirt on (its a strange detail to remember, I know) and the inside of the house seemed dark. We told them we were here to deliver their Christmas basket and from out of nowhere, kids start rushing the door jumping up and down and screaming, "now we can have Christmas!". We handed everything over and wished them a Merry Christmas.
The ride home was quiet. I think we were all pondering the same thing, those kids would not have had a Christmas at all without that basket. No presents, no stockings, nothing to wake up to Christmas morning. And here we were, three girls from good middle class families whose biggest concerns were what dress to wear to the dance and making curfew. Talk about geting slapped across the face with perspective.
I think about that family every Christmas. I wonder if they think about us. I wonder how their next Christmas turned out and if they received another basket or not. I wonder about the kids in that house. How did they turn out? Did they pay it forward to another family who needed help when they got older?
It was a five minute interaction that will stay with me for a lifetime.