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Penned by a Friend: The Box on the Porch

Sunday 1 December 2013 - Filed under Penned by a Friend + Writing

The Box on the Porch
by Ed Potter

“They didn’t even care enough about it to come outside and get it. Let’s take it home!” Those were the approximate words from six-year-old Margaret, on the brink of tears. You’ll understand when I tell you what happened.

My wife, Sue, and I thought the children could use a little focus on someone other than themselves at Christmas time. We asked the social services folks to give us the names of a needy family, preferably with children about the ages of ours. Margaret and Edward really seemed to get into the project. They chose presents for the children; they wrapped them, then couldn’t wait to give them out. Sue and I chose a couple of presents for the adults. We also packed the box with some luscious Christmas food that they probably wouldn’t be buying on their limited income.

Well, the big night finally came. We lugged the box up onto their porch. We knocked.

“Who’s there?”

“Uh, we’re the Potters, and we have some Christmas treats,” we said very uncertainly.

“Yeah, I heard you were coming,” the male voice said. “Just set it down on the porch. We’re just too busy now to come out.”

Then came Margaret’s remark. She and Edward were really disappointed not to meet the kids.

We left the box anyway, as we knew we should. It was then my job to explain just what happened.

It could have been that the guy was just a creep. That was the easy explanation. Or it could have been that he hated to have to face people who were, in his view, a bit more successful and wealthy than he, and this was the only way he knew how to deal with it. We’ll never know.

I tried to explain to our children that what they did was good, and that the giving in itself was enough. No one can control how others respond to deeds done for them. That was, of course, all very well and good, but I couldn’t help knowing that the disappointment was still there.

I hope the recipients enjoyed the little presents, and that their children thought about the fact that their Christmas was nicer than it might have been otherwise. I wanted our project to provide an awakening for our children, and it certainly did–just not the awakening we expected. Even though the deed itself is what’s important, and not how others respond to it, somehow we just never did it again, and I really think we should have.

2013-12-01  »  Marilyn Brandt Smith