Best. Christmas. Idea. Ever.

After folks got shot, punched, stabbed and trampled on Black Friday–I braved the crowds to shop for a couple local senior citizens–randomly assigned to me–I didn’t know them and they’ll never know me. I learned about the Elves For Elders program via a Facebook post on our neighborhood page. Normally I don’t like My left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, ie., others knowing what I’m doing in the world of charitable giving—I think it defeats the purpose if you shout it out for the world to see. But after this particularly deadly, greed centered start to the “holiday” shopping season, I felt compelled to give some perspective. Here is the combined list of what these 62 and 76 year old ladies asked for: Paper towels; tissues; bathroom and kitchen cleaning supplies; AAA batteries; a warm hat; crayons; colored pencils; sweat pants; t-shirt; sweatshirt; bed sheets; boxed cookies; laundry detergent; kitchen towels; pot holder; socks; slippers and a night light. I have never, in my adult life, as much as we struggled financially, thought to make a Christmas list asking for cleaning supplies. What if you or I, come Christmas morning, unwrapped a can of Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner? Would we be thrilled? Would we wonder what the joke was? Would we squeal, “Oh honey you’ve hired the contractor to remodel the master bathroom??” Because in reality, that’s the only reason there’d be a can of Scrubbing Bubbles (My husband truly did learn from the mini shopvac fiasco of Christmas 1990) under my tree—as I already buy the five pack myself when it’s on sale at Costco. I even consider it a splurge, at this stage in my life, to have a can in each of my bathrooms so I don’t have to schelp one up and down the stairs when I’m cleaning. And yet, this woman had cleaning supplies on her CHRISTMAS LIST. I shared these lists with my mom a couple days after we watched her husband of 57 years, my dad of 52, die. We were driving to the bank to begin dealing with the myriad of tedious details death requires, when the email arrived with my Elders’ lists. My dad was quite poor as a child. He worked his way through high school, college, a Master’s degree and a Doctorate. He and my mom worked hard, saved and scrimped. My three brothers and I lacked for nothing (even if we thought so at the time). My mom and dad enjoyed a comfortable retirement—a lovely house in Florida, river cruises, travels to see family. Dad still scrimped (see can of Dollar Tree brand “scrubbing bubbles” in their cabinet) and both he and Mom shared their time, talent and treasure with friends, family and strangers. “Mom, I can’t imagine you or dad being without a roll of paper towels.” The irony here, is that every year, my brothers and I would empty our stockings to find the same or similar items as those requested by these ladies: batteries; flashlights; socks. So mundane. So predictable. So Dad. So not Christmas Morning Exciting for a 12 year old. But apparently, as it’s said, some things never go out of style. And so I shopped for these ladies in honor of my dad. I can no longer take care of him. I can no longer give him a Christmas gift. I can no longer tuck a paper towel in his neckline or on his lap with his lunch plate. But I can, in a very small way, take care of another older person. Another human being. Who just wants some paper towels for Christmas. Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you naked and clothe you? Amen I say to you, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.

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