Give the Gift of Mitzvahs this Holiday Season

Posted: November 20th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Holidays | 1 Comment »

Last week Shelley was telling me about a woman who’d been inside her house for the first time. She was doing a carpool drop-off I think, or maybe she was a new friend. Anyway, this woman was admiring Shelley’s grandma’s china that’s in a cabinet in their living room. And as she stepped away from the huge case of cherished breakables, she pointed out that Shell really should rein the cabinet into the wall, or one small quake could send it and all Grannie’s priceless pink flowered table settings to garbage can heaven.

(This is a concern when you live in NoCal. You can’t even hang pictures over your bed–or especially a baby crib–since one wee tremor could have them dive off the wall and turn sleeping Junior into Flat Stanley. Or worse yet, rain down glass shards over yourself or your offspring like New Year’s Eve confetti on Times Square.)

So anyway, Shelley must have said something like, “Yeah you are totally right, but as the First Lady of a time-sucking winemaking business, with three kids, a big house to manage, and the onset of a new job twinkling in my eye, who’s got the time?”

A few days later the woman called Shelley. “So I’ve got my drill charged up and I’m free next Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday afternoon. When can I come by and bolt that china cabinet to the wall?”

Now, just how much do you want this carpool woman to be your best friend? The offer of such a kind favor aside, I just love that she’s got her own drill and she ain’t shy about using it.

Fast forward to today. I’m leaving a little day spa where I’ve just lost 2 pounds in eyebrow hair and I’m wrangling to set up my stroller while holding Little Miss Earache in one arm. I happen to glance down the street and this ancient fragile looking woman is approaching, and she’s managing to somehow drag behind her an oxygen tank that she’s hooked up to. I didn’t know whether to be sad for her weakened state, or happy that she’s at least not letting it stop her from getting out in the world.

And as I look back at my stroller and revert my thoughts to sending a pox-curse on the village of the owners of MacLaren (why do those visors always eventually irreparably schlump?), Wee Decrepit Woman on Oxygen comes up to me and says, “What can I do for you, dear? Let me give you a hand.” And even though at that point I’d finally gotten my sidewalk catastrophe act together, it was all I could do to not give her a teary-eyed osteoporotically-bone-crushing hug, then send her to my house to iron Mark’s shirts.

Though I don’t really know that that’s what she had in mind.

Even with His Holiness Obama blessedly elected into office, here we all are at the intersection of Economic Infrastructure Meltdown and Holiday Shopping Stress. And despite how much I want a really fabulous pair of brown high-heeled boots (and black ones too) this Christmas, it seems that along with everyone else I’ve spoken to, this season of giving is going to be coming more from the heart than from Bloomingdale’s. I think an act of kindness will be this year’s jewel-toned cashmere scarf, and really it’s a shame that it took Wall Street shitting the bed to wake us all up to the fact that that’s how it really should be anyway.

So take out that Excel spreadsheet with all your gift-buying ideas on it (wait, not everyone keeps that in Excel?), and whether or not you have the cash to buy every last person matching his and hers hot air balloons, consider what you can do instead of get. Rake your sister’s leaves, deliver a tray of gin and tonics to your neighbor right when they get home from work, or set aside some time to organize your cousin’s linen closet. I assure you, they will delight in those gifts far more than the Hammacher Schlemmer heated gloves that they’re just going to keep in in a box in their basement for four years until they give them away to Salvation Army.

And when I’m at your house next and seem to be spending an excessive amount of time in your bathroom, no need to slide the sports section (and some air freshener) under the door. I’m likely just scrubbing the grout around your bathtub with some bleach and a toothbrush.

Merry Christmas!

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Give the Gift of Mitzvahs this Holiday Season”

  1. 1 Nell said at 4:01 pm on November 20th, 2008:

    Aaaaa-men, sister. You’ve given me a great idea for a holiday gift for your BIL- I’m sure the staties monitoring the carpool lane won’t think twice about how he’s chugging straight from the Thermos on our way home on Christmas Eve! I wonder how many G&T’s it will take for the 30 minute run?

    There is a veritable host of people who help me every day as I’m wrangling the young ‘uns through Coast Guard Headquarters, and I appreciate it so much. And I think that one of the best things we can do is to ensure that our kids see us doing good things for no reason. The first time one’s child struts their stuff as a civil, compassionate, selfless human being is a joy to behold…talk about hope.

    And one final thought from the blog of another good buddy:

    “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in the world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love”

    Love that.

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