Sarah Cook is a Public Relations Specialist with Freestore Foodbank, a Feeding America member.
The presents were unwrapped, family meals were shared, and the confetti was thrown. Now, the lights and decorations are coming down. The holidays came and went in the blink of an eye. As we settle into 2012, and I reflect on the year past, one memory stands out strongly in my mind. On December 13, 2011, I had the honor of witnessing one of the most genuine, purest forms of generosity. Our client, Tonya, was on the receiving end.
Tonya lives in a bare, tiny two bedroom apartment just a few minutes from downtown Cincinnati. In this nearly empty space, Tonya doesn't just worry about herself. One of her biggest concerns is not having a bed for her three young children to sleep in at night. She worries about Tyana, a tall, slender and rather shy 8-year-old; Niayala, a sweet 7-year-old with a big heart (that happened to have two holes in it when she was born); and little Stevie, who, like most 2-year-olds, is curious and exploring everything.
"She's really been struggling trying to take care of the kids," said Deborah, Tonya's mother. "She works two or three jobs whenever she can."
Tonya is determined to make a better life for her children, and, on December 13, she got the jumpstart she needed. Her family was furnished with a new beginning.
Hordes of volunteers armed with donated furniture, kitchen utensils, bedding, clothing and several toys came knocking at Tonya's door. Tyana, Niayala and Stevie's eyes lit up and they watched the steady stream of strangers bring in piece after piece of furniture and set up two beds, the first ones the kids can call their very own.
The children screeched with delight as a Christmas tree was set up and numerous bags containing gifts were brought in for them to open on Christmas morning. That's when reality hit me -- these children were being introduced to a life they've never had. For the first time, they had their own beds to sleep in at night. I found myself fighting back tears as I watched this act of selfless kindness unfold; as complete strangers transformed this family's tiny apartment into a home.
On December 13, 2011, Tonya and her family were furnished with a new beginning. And on December 13, 2011, I was reminded of how acts of kindness, small or large, can go a long way. How generosity can help to transform lives. How selflessness can bring so much joy and love to others, even complete strangers.
So, as 2011 comes to a close and we open a new chapter…here's to a new year, new opportunities and new beginnings.