I know Christmas has come and gone but I just have to share this story of gift-giving with you.
I've known Beth Anthony Thompson since she was a little girl. Always a sweet person. After hearing this, she just got sweeter.
A few weeks ago, her mom told me about how Beth does something special at Christmas time for the last few years and thought it was a great story. I agree.
Beth says as a child, kindness and selflessness was instilled in her by her parents, Ray and Virginia Anthony of Kunkletown.
When she became a young woman, she married and became the mother of two beautiful little girls. Her husband was in the United States Army. When he had to go to Korea for a year, Beth and her daughters moved in with Ray and Virginia. During that time, Beth and the girls began attending her home church, St. Matthew's UCC in Kunkletown, the same church I go to. While the girls attended Sunday School, Beth joined our In-Betweeners' adult Sunday School class and we all got to know her better. We knew she was lonely and welcomed her with open arms.
Then her husband came home in time for their oldest daughter's fourth birthday. I remember how excited she was!
On Valentine's Day, he asked Beth for a divorce. We all remember how distraught she was.
But Beth reassures, "This is actually a good story."
He moved to North Carolina and Beth and the girls stayed on with her parents.
"I was emotionally devastated but I had the support of my new friends at church, the In-Betweeners. It is here that the catalyst to my story begins. Someone, or some few, from the group sent an anonymous card of friendship with money for me to take a friend out to lunch. I never found out who it was who sent that, but it meant so much to me. And still does."
Beth later married her high school sweetheart. The new family moved to Georgia. She went back to school and earned a RN degree. We all rejoiced in her happiness.
"My first year as a nurse, I was able to give back the kindness that was once shown to me. I was working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a little baby boy was born on my birthday. He became a favorite of mine. His parents were poor and couldn't take him home until they had enough money to buy a special car-seat for preemies with breathing difficulties. It was almost Christmas."
Beth decided to play Secret Santa. She anonymously sent the parents money to buy the car-seat.
"I was hooked!"
That small act of kindness gave birth to a new tradition for Beth and her family. Every year since, Beth uses any bonuses or 'extra' Christmas money she has to give anonymously to a deserving family.
"A few have been money to single moms so they could buy their kids Christmas presents. One year we had a dear church family where the father lost his job and his father died, both in December. He didn't know if they could pay the electric bill, let alone buy Christmas gifts. So we gave him money to do both. Another year, I knew a family, very active in the community and church, were scrounging for change to wash their clothes at the laundromat, then drying them at home. We bought them a new washing machine."
This year, Beth and her husband agreed to only do stocking stuffers for each other.
"Our big gift to each other was buying beds for a needy family. Their two daughters slept on the couch. So they got a bunk bed with mattresses. One son slept on the mattress on the floor so he got a platform bed. All four children got new bed linens and comforters. Between God and Walmart, we were amazingly able to afford this and somehow got the children's favorite colors, too!"
Beth and her husband involved their daughters in the gift-giving this year.
"They didn't even mind that they didn't get as much for Christmas, or that Santa brought them used Wii games."
It has now been six years since Beth gave money anonymously to those parents to buy a special needs car-seat for the baby boy born on her birthday.
"I hope to be able to do this until I die. It is one of my very favorite parts of Christmas, one I wish I could do all year long!"
Beth said to me, "If you know who sent me that card 11 years ago, please let them know I am still thinking of them and their blessing."
I received a beautiful Christmas gift from my Secret Sister, a little book titled "Whispers of Encouragement," a daily devotional. I'd like to close with a quote from it from Henry Drummond ..."You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love."
Surely Beth's story is living proof of that statement. Her story and this quote inspired me to make a New Year's resolution to do more for others, in the spirit of love. I hope it inspires you too.