There’s a touching story entitled The Little White Envelope that first appeared in a national magazine 37 years ago about a family in the upper Midwest. It proves we can always stay connected to the true meaning of the holidays in spite of all the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness and commercialization of the season. This just might bring out the happy Grinch in all of us…
THE LITTLE WHITE ENVELOPE
Mike hated Christmas. Not the holiday itself or its origins but all the for-profit hype and hoopla that had all but suffocated the essence of the season. He despised the foolish overspending and last-minute rush to buy gifts out of duty, not desire. As such, he was not the easiest person to shop for – would he like the item or simply put on a happy face before stowing the gift in a closet somewhere, never to be seen again?
One afternoon, home alone and lost as to what to do, Mike’s wife was suddenly inspired. She had a gift idea that truly was something special, something necessary, and something that would make Mike smile; the kind of smile that starts in the heart and warms the room.
Recently, she and Mike had attended their young son’s home wrestling match against a poor, inner-city school. As the visitors walked into the gym from their locker room, she was taken aback by the contrast.
Her son’s team looked sharp in their new blue and gold uniforms and matching wrestling shoes. Each had in their hands a padded helmet of sorts, designed to protect the ears during competition.
Meanwhile, the visitors came dressed in faded and worn uniforms that had seen many seasons of competition and countless cycles in the washing machine. Their shoes were no better and not one of them had the protective headgear. By the end of the afternoon, the scoreboard showed a clean sweep of matches in every weight class for the home team.
“I wish at least one of them could’ve won their match,” Mike said to his wife. “This kind of thing can kill a kid’s spirit.”
And so it begins…
A week passed and she suddenly recalled what he’d said to her after the wrestling match. She pulled out a small, white envelope, wrote Mike’s name on it and tucked it in the branches of their Christmas tree [at eye-level so it couldn’t be missed]. It didn’t take long for the envelope to catch Mike’s eye and since Christmas Day was still a week or two away, it naturally created a curiosity, an intrigue and a touch of magic.
On Christmas morning, after all the kids had torn into their colorfully and carefully wrapped packages, and she’d opened a few items Mike had bought for her, Mike’s wife said, “It’s your turn.”
Mike went to the tree, removed the envelope and sat down, conflicted a bit. He wanted to open the envelope but wondered, after all this intrigue, if it simply held a boring gift certificate for a local mall store. Timidly, he opened the envelope, taking care to untuck the flap that hadn’t been moistened and sealed. Inside was the following note…
“On your behalf, I went to the sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the kids at the inner-city school. I know how you love kids. This is my Christmas gift to you. – Love, Nancy.”
The gift of a smile…
Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And for every Christmas that followed, the same little white envelope became the highlight. The kids even stopped and watched quietly as the envelope was opened by Mike and the message was read. Each year, it was a gesture of kindness for a deserving cause – sending a group of mentally challenged children to a hockey game, a check to an elderly couple whose home had burned to the ground the week before, a sizeable donation to a children’s cancer hospital, and on and on.
Ironically, cancer eventually claimed Mike and the year following his passing, it took everything Nancy had to put up the tree. On Christmas Eve, she dutifully placed the little white envelope in the tree’s branches and went to bed, misty-eyed and melancholy, and missing Mike terribly.
The next morning, the little white envelope had been joined by three more; one from each of her children. In honor of their Dad, each had given what they could to a needy person or organization and added their own note. And now 37 years later, Nancy’s grandchildren are carrying on the tradition.
Somewhere, Mike smiles that bright and joyous Christmas smile.
A SIMPLE CORK BULLETIN BOARD
A little closer to home is a wonderful organization dedicated to conquering childhood cancer. Much like the famed St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN, Atlanta-based CURE Childhood Cancer, funded in 1975, raises money for research and provides support and assistance to young cancer patients and their families. dynami group is a proud supporter of CURE, as well as St. Jude’s.
In a breakroom at CURE, there’s a simple cork bulletin board tucked between the refrigerator and a water cooler. Visitors seldom see the bulletin board but for the staff, it comes alive this time of year with handwritten notes, greeting cards, and pictures of healthy youngsters whom staff first met when they were bald, pallid and ailing. In some cases, there are notes of gratitude from families whose loved ones lost the battle. Here’s one from this past January…
“My family dearly thanks you for your help with our utility bill last month. It could have meant less food, waiting for winter jackets, or quite a small Christmas for our family of 6. But you stepped in. You’ve truly blessed us.”
“Thank you all for looking out for my family this Christmas, because this year was NOT looking like a Christmas for us at all, but because of the CURE program we will have one.”
That simple cork bulletin board inspires staff members and reminds them that what they do is noble and worthwhile. And it infuses them with inspiration and energy in the toughest of times.
The awesome power to bring hope to another is within each of us…
As we lean full-bore into the crazy pace of the holiday season with so much last-minute “stuff” to get done, or gifts to buy, or events to attend, consider taking a moment to reflect on the spirit of the little white envelope or the simple cork bulletin board. If you’d like to support CURE Childhood Cancer, please go to https://curechildhoodcancer.org/ways-to-give/ . Or simply look around and find a person or organization in need and do what you can to lend assistance. The awesome power to bring hope to another is within each of us, not only at this time of year but throughout the year.
All of us at dynami wish you and yours a warm and wonderful holiday, whichever holiday you celebrate.