Story: The Greatest Gift

By: Kathleen Vo

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“Am I crazy?” I asked myself as I stepped out into the dark, rainy night, both arms pulled down by two heavy bags of food, face stinging as the wind pierced my skin. On this cold winter day, I decided to spend part of my winter break distributing food kits that I made for those who did not have a home or family to return to during the holiday season.

That winter was particularly cold and rainy, and the many instances I had, looking out a window into the heavy downpour from inside my warm home, prompted me to think about all the people in the world who did not have the luxury of acquiring shelter during a time like this. Coincidentally, my uncle had overstocked our family gas station with extra sandwiches, bottled drinks, and snacks that year. Rather than letting these items to go to waste, I seized this opportunity to take the leftover items and put them to good use by dividing them into food kits and handing them out to the homeless.

Grasping onto the first food kit of the night, I approached a middle aged woman who had her head down, eyes perpendicular to the floor, and body shaking from the cold. This changed the moment the words, “happy holidays,” came out of my mouth. Her entire demeanor changed: her head shot up, energy and anticipation washing across her face. Without any hesitation, she quickly accepted the bag of food I was holding out and clutched my hands. In addition to tending to her physical needs, I was able to offer my company and time, which she happily made full use of. For the next couple minutes, we worked up a personal conversation, standing there in the rain under my umbrella, and this special encounter enlightened me about the power of human contact.

This single interaction answered the question I asked myself when I first stepped out the door. I was not crazy for willingly leaving my house on that cold rainy night; I was replacing a few hours of comfort and warmth for the opportunity to give back to those who did not have the luxuries that I have been blessed with. Knowing that I was able to instill even just a small amount of happiness in other people through my own words and handmade food kits gave me more joy than any other gift would have given me that holiday season.

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