Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Cranberry Story ...

I wanted to explain further why exactly helping our friend with an act of kindness in the area of her car was significant to both Wally and I. This story has two parts of kindness in it that will forever have a place in our hearts.

Without further a due, the 'Cranberry Story' ...

It was a few weeks before Christmas several years ago. Wally and I had just found out that our little Neon needed a heart transplant and that it would cost approximately $3400. At the time we were living in our house, had mortgage payments, Wally had just started a few months prior trying to work his way into selling insurance and doing financial advising. I was self employed teaching piano and house keeping, also working at the church as a youth worker 20 hours a week.

We were both getting frustrated but trying desperately to be patient while Wally 'grew' his business. Money was tight but we had a bit of money in the bank for emergencies, we quickly learned not enough.

Our car went in to get fixed and was gone for 3 1/2 weeks. We got it back just two days before Christmas when it broke down the very next day putting it back in the garage for another 3 1/2 weeks. At the time we only had one car and so I was using my parents' second car to do my work - everyone's patience was wearing a little thin. Especially when we had an additional $1600 in car repairs and maintenance after the initial amount. We were sapped.

Soon after the car went in the first time Christmas festivities were beginning to get underway. For us this meant a lot of family gatherings and hosting a few ourselves. Every year since the third year we were married we have had both sets of our parents and each of our grandmothers over for a mini family meal. I thought it would be a nice tradition to develop early in the month of December as by the time we saw each other at Christmas there was a crowd of family and we didn't ever really get to enjoy eachother. And usually, to be honest they were the ones that did a lot of the work. I thought it would be a great challenge for myself to try and put on a full turkey dinner by myself to treat them.

You know how I like challenges, well it was definitely that the first couple of years, but I got the hang of it and am now the 'turkey cooker' for Wally's family Christmas dinners (one year I did three birds over the holidays!). My favourite is the home made stuffing!!!

Anyways, that year as I looked at our drained bank account and contemplated the cost of a turkey dinner for six and the fact that we really didn't have any extra money for groceries I thought 'Maybe this year we'll have to let this go'. After a bit more thought I decided I didn't want this infant tradition to get forgotten so I decided I would just do my best to trim the trimmings and be even more frugal than I already was.

As I was going through the grocery store I looked at where I could save money and one thing I remember distinctly was that the no name cranberries were significantly cheaper than the name brand cranberries (yes I bought them in a can). I gazed at the 'Ocean Spray' can and for some reason was saddened. It had never generally bothered me to buy no name anything but for some reason I felt on that day that Ocean Spray cranberries were essential for our meal. Unfortunately I had committed to be frugal. Plus, really? What did it matter about the cranberries when they were a mere small addition to the meal - who would even notice? Like I said, at that time the cranberries meant something to me and so I was disappointed when I had to give them up.

As Christmas got a bit closer one night I got a phone call from a friend of ours who lived down the street but went to our church as well. She called up and said she wanted to drop off your Christmas card. I told her I had just finished teaching and I was home.

A few minutes later in the windy blowing snow she pulled her car up and got out. In her arms she carried a cardboard box, a grocery bag and of course the Christmas card.

She literally whisked in, dropped everything on the floor, gave me a quick hug and whisked out. It was clear she did not want any recognition.

I was overwhelmed with her kindness and began to cry (I'm not much of a crier usually). I began going through the treasures she brought.

In the grocery bag was a frozen turkey. In the cardboard box: boxes of Kraft dinner, homemade jam, pickles, sidekicks, cans of soup and a few other stray items. As I sifted through my heart nearly stopped when I discovered one last thing. Ocean Spray cranberries.

I couldn't believe it. I was shocked. Of all the things to be packed into a box of non perishables, why cranberries? Some might suggest the gift was for a Christmas dinner but nothing else (other than the turkey) fit into the traditional scheme of things, nothing.

I knew exactly why the cranberries were in there. They were a gift. From that Papa of mine. They were a reminder to me that even the little things in my life mattered to him and that he indeed would supply all of our needs in perfect time.

I've never in my life been so changed by a can of food in my life. Especially one that, to be honest, I don't generally ever even eat.

The story doesn't end there.

When the car returned to us a couple of days before Christmas (the first return) and we learned what the bill would be we were deflated (even more so after it broke down the next day after we paid it and it had to go back in!). We were sure exactly how we would both pay our car bill AND survive over the next few months as we were using that money to help carry us over with groceries and gas.

We got a call from Nathan's team manager in his somewhat of a new career. He wanted to let us know that he and his wife would like to lone us any amount of money we needed to get through this rough patch completely interest free and for as long as we needed. We were astounded. For a couple of reasons...

For one when you are in the financial industry there are a few rules with managers and team members, one being: managers sign off on an agreement that in no way ever will they lend money to those working under them.

The other reason is because we barely knew this man and his wife. We'd met them a few months earlier but really didn't know them that well at all.

Initially we didn't think we could take their help. Like I said, we barely knew them, and we didn't borrow money from anywhere. The only debt we'd ever had as a married couple was our mortgage so we were rather fearful of what this would do to us, both financially and relationally.

We talked and talked about it and pondered our options. In the end we decided we had no other real choice and we were considering this our answer to much prayer. We accepted.

The couple lent us $3000 interest free and we (once Wally started working at the pig farm at the end of March) had it paid back by the end of June that year.

We will forever feel the impact of these two generous acts of kindness and continue to share the stories. They still stir our hearts now.

This hopefully explains why we felt drawn to help our friend out with her car problems, we definitely identified and felt it was our turn to 'pay it forward', even in this very small way. Knowing the back ground of how greatly we've been helped in the past hopefully gives you a glimpse into why we aren't anything special to share a tiny bit of what we have now.

My hope is that we will continue to remember what it's like to be in these situations and be open to being used in interesting ways to help with the solution.

Remember the cranberries.

We do. We keep a can of Ocean Spray cranberries on our kitchen shelf to remind us always of how we have been provided for.

Sometimes the little things are the big things.