I did it again. I over-shopped, I over-spent and I over-extended. On the bright side, my house looks beautiful and the gifts are all wrapped and under the tree. But my December’s been a little sad and a tiny bit empty. Because these things are so peripheral and that’s not what Christmas is about and I should’ve known better.
So I’ve been trying daily the last couple of weeks to focus on the reason for the season. I came across these two little miracles and they filled my heart with gratitude, peace and humility. I hope you’ll take 5 minutes from your day to read and listen. I promise you won’t regret it.
By Julianne Donaldson (Author of Edenbrooke)
It all started with a flat tire on my husband’s car. I had driven it for miles before noticing it was flat, and by that time, it was a goner. So I found myself driving my husband to work on a chilly morning at the beginning of December, worrying about how I was going to pay for Christmas and car repairs, stressing about my growing seasonal to-do list, and feeling overwhelmed and mistreated by fate.
While I waited at a stoplight, I noticed a kid with a bike standing by a gas station across the street. He was small—just about the size of my 11-year-old. He was all alone, in the cold. And something about him called to me.
I pulled over and asked him if he needed help. After a brief inspection, it was clear that his bike could not be fixed without a welder. So I lifted his bike into the back of my van and drove him to school.
Isaac didn’t say much, but he was polite. I noticed that he was wearing a light jacket in 30º F weather and that his jeans had holes within the holes. He thanked me when I dropped him off at Northwest Middle School. As I watched him struggle to carry his broken bike into the school, I felt an unmistakable tug on my heart.
When I got home, I called his school and talked to the secretary about him. She confirmed all of my suspicions—that his family was struggling, that Christmas would be hard for them, and that he couldn’t get to school without a bike. She told me, too, that his mother was in the hospital and that there was no adult in the home to come to his rescue.
When I hung up the phone, the tug on my heart had turned into a concrete goal: I wanted to find a bike for Isaac. I wished I could buy him a bike, but I didn’t have the money for it. So I went on Facebook and asked my friends if anyone had a spare bike for a small 8th grade boy. Nobody did. I called around. I thought about visiting the D.I. Then an idea came to me—I had more than just my friends on Facebook. I had readers as well. So I went back to Facebook, this time on my author page, and I told my readers a little about Isaac and asked if anyone had a spare bike. One reader wrote, “No, but I have five dollars.” Another commented, “I have five dollars too.” “I do too.”
An idea grew within me—an idea so powerful and important that I could not see the ends of it. That night I wrote about Isaac on my blog, and I asked something scary of this unknown group of readers. I asked them to trust me. I told them that if they desired to donate money to Isaac’s cause, then I would make sure it was put to good use.
And then the miracle occurred. People gave. They gave so much. Most of them were strangers to me, but they donated time and money, bags of clothes, a bike ordered and delivered to my door, offers to help, encouragement, and prayers. After two days, the money pouring in was reaching alarming levels. I put a stop to the donations, and then I spent the next three weeks shopping for Isaac’s family for Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier shopping.
A week before Christmas, my husband and I loaded up the minivan and drove to Northwest Middle School with a new bike, clothes for Isaac and his siblings and his sick mom, groceries, gift cards, and wrapped presents. I also presented the school with the leftover donated money, which they could use for any other students in need.
But Isaac wasn’t at school that day. He was at home taking care of his sick mom. His counselors stood in that cold parking lot and told me that Isaac’s mom was going to die very soon. It would be their last Christmas together as a family. I cried when I heard that. I cried all the way home, and when I think about Isaac, I still find more tears to cry.
I’ve thought a lot about fate since then—about my flat tire and Isaac’s broken bike bringing the two of us together on a day and during a season when we needed each other the most. Isaac needed to know that even though he was alone, he was never forgotten. And I needed to know that there are Isaacs all around us, that generosity from strangers can change the world, and that Christmas is utterly, unfailingly about love.