This year instead of exchanging gifts, my girlfriends and I decided to adopt a family for Christmas. Once everyone was on board with this idea I called Project Help.
Project Help is a local organization that helps families with school aged children. A family that receives help is encouraged to give back through community service. I was introduced to this organization quite a few years ago when we were contacted by a friend whose family had received help and he asked TJ to put a crew together to frame a new building for Project Help and to please set the trusses on the building.....all for free of course. For those that don't know, TJ & I owned a crane service for 11 years and before that TJ was a framing superintendent for a local construction company. TJ, of course, was more than willing to help out. He made phone calls and within 48 hours had a crew willing to do the work. The day of the build we showed up with a full framing crew and one of our cranes. TJ ran the crew and set the trusses. In a matter of hours the building was up and dried in. The director was thrilled with the work that was done in such a short amount of time.
When I called Project Help last week I was told they had already adopted all their families out for Christmas. I was thrilled that all were taken care of but disappointed we did not have a family to adopt. I asked if there was another way we could help and was told they really needed hams and gifts for teenagers. It seems many do toy drives to help out but teens tend to be a forgotten group at Christmas. I had no idea what to buy for teens and she told me they prefer gift cards so they can pick out their own clothes. I was given names of several stores where teens like to shop. I called the girls and it was unanimous.....hams and gift cards. We got together on a Sunday and were able to purchase 8 hams and over $400 in gift cards, most in $25 increments. After shopping we went for a nice lunch. Everyone was happy with what we did and agreed that next year we would do the same thing.
During one of my conversations with the lady at Project Help I mentioned that my husband had helped frame and set the trusses on the building they are in. She said, "Are you Sandy with Apache Crane!" I informed her that yes I was and she proceeded to sing the praises of TJ, even remembering his name. She told me how grateful she was for his help and all the guys he brought with him to work. She remembered how he smiled the whole time he was there working and actually seemed happy to be working for free on a Saturday. As she went on and on about that day and what a wonderful and generous man TJ was my eyes were filling with tears. I knew she didn't know that he had died and hearing her speak so highly of him was simply heartwarming. She ended by asking me "How is he doing?". I paused. I had a huge lump in my throat. I told her that he passed away 2 years ago. She gave her condolences and I changed the subject.
Listening to her talk about TJ was the best Christmas gift for me. He only crossed paths with this woman one day and yet he left a lasting impression. Many friends will tell TJ stories and speak highly of him, but hearing her words about a brief encounter with him was the most precious gift ever.
So many of us tend to get caught up in the gift giving of Christmas and forget what truly matters. This year, be kinder to one another and talk fondly of those we have lost and will not grace our holiday tables. Sometimes a kind word spoken can be the most wonderful gift of all.