Giving more than gifts this holiday


One of the things I love about this time of year is that it truly does seem to bring out the best in others.

Despite a stagnant economy, or perhaps because of it, I probably see more opportunities to give to charities than ever before. Whether it is the Salvation Army volunteers faithfully ringing their bells as a sign of the season, churches organizing holiday food drives, or radio personalities soliciting donations and toys, there really is a plethora of venues where one can give something.

And, inevitably, most of us do end up giving something during the Christmas season.

Regardless of the physical resources I contribute, however, in the back of my mind, I often find myself thinking of how such gifts are merely temporary things, and wishing I could give something that will last more than a season, something that can really make a difference in the lives of the ones they touch. Just last week, I saw this wish partially fulfilled.

The partial fulfillment of my wish came about unsuspectingly. I had just completed some errands with a few minutes to spare before having to pick up my kids from school, when, I was driving down Tyrone Road near Flat Creek Road and saw a man with a car wash sign.

Given that I had a few minutes, I figured I should probably get the car washed. So, I turned into the driveway where the man was holding the sign and shared that I wanted a quick wash. What happened next pleasantly surprised me.

Despite being the only one in the driveway, this man quickly ran to get his cleaning supplies, and over the next 10 minutes he demonstrated all the qualities that many retail employers look for. He hustled, was focused on his work, paid attention to details, and was courteous without being overly chatty.

I inspected his work and was impressed with how much he was able to do in such little time. He even washed the undercarriage.

It suddenly occurred to me that, like this man, what many families who are unemployed, or find their budgets thinner, need this year is an opportunity.

Rather than simply receiving gifts — which are a blessing — what many people simply want is an opportunity to work and prove how capable they are, thereby earning their pay and maintaining the sense of dignity one gets from a hard day’s work.

As I sat in that driveway, I thought, if I were a retailer, I would have an impromptu interview with this man and possibly offer him a job. However, what I did share with him was that I sometimes write for this paper, and that he impressed me.

I asked him for his permission to write about him. He said I could, and that it was fine for me to share that he is a father simply trying to provide for his family during the holidays, but he did not want me to mention his name.

So here I am, in the midst of the holiday season still deciding on some last-minute gifts, writing this article, and my thoughts and prayers keep turning to this car-washing father.

My hope is that someone would read this article, see what I saw in this man, and give him more than a gift. I pray that he might receive an opportunity to work and lead others by his example. In so doing, my wish would be completely fulfilled.

In the end, giving gifts is nice, but giving someone an opportunity to demonstrate their talents and skills conveys that you care about them — now, and into the future.

Helping someone to provide for themselves tells them that you believe in them. And that belief can make all the difference in the world.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]