One of my closest friends, Amy, unexpectedly lost a friend a few days after Christmas. She was 57 and suffered from poor health, but her death was still a total shock. This woman lived with her mother for many of her last years, being her caretaker and companion, cooking for her and loving her. As a result, her own personal life suffered, losing all of her friends and failing to maintain any sort of life outside of her devotion to her mother. When her mother died three years ago, she was lost and alone and remained depressed and lonely. So, so sad.
Then huge-hearted Amy came into her life. Amy enjoyed her yummy cooking, took her to many doctor appointments, called to check on her, really listened when visiting, and bottom line - cared when no one else did. The friendship wasn't all lollipops and roses - it had emotional ups and downs. But Amy never gave up on her, even when her husband and family wanted her at home instead and had difficulty understanding the friendship. She just did it and never asked for anything in return. She admits that helping people makes her feel good and is part of who she is (and one of the many reasons why I love her). And, luckily, she had a wonderful few hours with her two days before her death, and reported that she was in unusually great spirits. Thank goodness.
While I totally admire her good deeds, I can't help but think about myself. Would I have done what Amy did? Befriend a total stranger and show her such sweet compassion? To be totally honest, probably not. And, I can't blame it on the whole like "LA" thing - that we are private and closed and not particularly neighborly - because Amy was born and raised here, too. Do I wish I was more like her? Absolutely. I know I do good deeds, like making a friend laugh when she's feeling sad, bringing food to a local food bank once in a while, and organizing girlfriend weekends away (hey, many people benefit from those!). I guess we all have our own style and ideas of giving back to our friends, family, community, world, etc. It's priceless to have people in our lives that inspire us to do a bit of good in the world. But it's also important to acknowledge what we do, whether it's big or small, and to not compare ourselves to others. In my mind, the best that we can do is to give more than we take, even if it’s just making someone smile.
A few days ago, Amy called me after an emotionally difficult afternoon going through her friend’s apartment at the request of her brother. He told her that as her only friend, to please take whatever she wanted, otherwise it would just be thrown away or given to charity. Along with some crystal and other special items, she took a few boxes full of Christmas decorations. Despite being Jewish, she loved the spirit of Christmas. As a collector of Santas, I quickly spoke up and requested that if she came across a Santa, I would love to have it. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was just one Santa. A great Santa. And, she gave it to me without hesitation.
Thank you, Lisa. I will forever cherish this Santa. I hope you are at peace and with your beloved mom. And, please know, that you gave back to the those around you after all. You showed Amy that it was important to stand up for her values and what made her feel good as a person. You put a smile on my face when I got your Santa, and will continue to smile every December when I unwrap it. Of course, it’s not building homes for the homeless, but it still means a lot, and that's what really matters.