I had a unique experience when I was 16 years old. I’m the oldest child of 7 children and my father was just transferred from world headquarters in Detroit Michigan to the offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My mother was the saint in this situation. The visa process itself was crazy. Passports, fingerprints, photos, X-rays (hand carried and shown at customs) shots, and last but the most fun were the stool samples to be officially submitted for all nine of us! Then there was sorting, cleaning, selling, packing, and finally the journey! We arrived safely and spent 3 months in a hotel, occupying four rooms on the sixth floor. She was my age and doing all of this. Really, this was quite a feat for her and my father. And all of these sacrifices led our family to have the most eye opening, wonderful experiences.
One of many comes to on my mind at this time of year. We spent that year’s Christmas in Brazil and did not return to visit family and friends. It was a new and bonding holiday time for us. We kept some traditions and added new ones. We planned our Christmas barbecue and were going to laze in the sun. On Christmas Eve, my father returned from work and asked my mother into their room for a private word. They came out and gathered us together and then shared what we were going to do that evening.
For the last week, on his drive home from the office, my father had noticed a family living in an underpass. Sao Paulo’s poverty was overwhelming. It was too much for one family to tackle and how could we? We were new to Brazil and short of going out one night handing out money, what could we do of any significance? My father had pushed these thoughts from his mind each time he passed this family. They were just being a family like us but homeless and trying to make the best of their situation. My parents knew they could help them.
My father had taken note of the number of children and approximate ages. We knew we had things in our home that they needed more than us. We scoured our bedrooms and closets for toys and clothes we thought they would love. We were so excited to help! I was amazed at the generosity of my siblings as each of them emerged from their rooms carrying their gifts for the family. They were giving their best. We piled into the car with as much food as we could carry as well as the gifts we found around the house.
We drove the short distance to find them and became giddy when we pulled up to their makeshift camp ground. My father got out of the car and spoke in very broken Portuguese to the other father. They had come to Sao Paulo on the promise of a job, but it had not worked out. Unfortunately, all of their funds were used in the journey. They were just doing what they could until they found another job. It was then that my father signaled us to get out of the car with our gifts. Trying not to overwhelm them, we passed over the presents and said “Feliz Natal” a million times. My father gave the father cash and my mother embraced the mother. I remember being moved to tears when handing one of the children a bag of food. He had a very big smile.
Everything about the holidays was relevant that night. The spirit of giving really is a feeling felt by giver and receiver together. I don’t remember what I received that year. But, I remember the giving and the feeling I felt. It was amazing!
Have a wonderful Holiday of giving and love.