…just a rough patch.

Folks weren’t interested in buying our livestock or meat. Coyotes were giving our critters a beating. Ranch income was down and bills were up.

We’d heard this song before and understood the tune. We cut costs, looked for ways to increase income and hunkered down.

Just before Christmas, I went out to the mailbox and picked up the usual assortment of good and bad news. We gathered around the wood stove and piled the bills up in the ‘To be handled’ pile and took a look at the cards from far-flung family and friends. On the bottom of the stack was a strange hand-written envelope with no return address.

I opened it and was surprised with two crisp 50 dollar bills. Inside there was an unsigned note saying the person sending us the money had prayed and received a message that we could use the cash more than the anonymous donor could.

We stared at each other, surprise, shock and a bit of outrage registering on our faces. We spluttered…

“…our problems are no big deal and we didn’t ask for money…”

“…wonder who sent the money and why…”

“…probably a mistake, we’ll give it back…”

My wife tucked her pride back in her pocket and calmed down before I did. She thought for a moment, then said: “Maybe we should accept this gift with the grace and kindness in which it was given.”

Finally, I admitted she was right.

“Maybe, when things get better,” I said, “we could pass the gift back the same way we’d received it, with grace and kindness.”

We accepted the unexpected present.

We’d been in ‘work’ mode for so long that we used the money to take a break…dinner in town and a motel for the night. It wasn’t much, but it sure felt good and it was something we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

A year later, just before Christmas, we were doing better. Not great, just better. We took three crisp fifties down to the Community Kitchen where folks who are in a tough spot can get some food. We explained that we’d like to help out with Christmas dinner that year. The only thing we asked was the hungry people to receive something on their plate they wouldn’t ordinarily have.

We don’t know what was served that night, but we heard later, the Community Kitchen Christmas dinner cooks received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The following year, a house repossession had capped off several years of financial difficulties for our mechanic. He and his family were…slowly…recovering.

We slipped three fifties into an envelope, plus a copy of this story, and placed it where it’d be found.

Days later, we got a phone call.

“I’d have been angry,” our mechanic said, “if you hadn’t sent along that story in the envelope.”

“We didn’t want to embarrass anyone,” I said, “but you folks have really been dragged through the wringer, maybe you can do something nice for your family.”

A couple of weeks later, we heard on the community grapevine that our mechanic had taken a day off work and gone snowboarding with his eldest daughter. So, what’s that worth when a fifteen-year-old girl gets to spend some quality time, she wouldn’t ordinarily have had, with her hard-working father?

Quite a bit, in our book.

So, take a look around. Is someone having a tough time? Maybe you have nothing to offer but a genuine smile and pleasant greeting. If they take it, they’ll have something they wouldn’t have had.

And, if you think it’ll help, show them this story…

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