When my son, Mark, was in the third grade he saved all his allowance for over two months to buy holiday presents for those he loved. He had saved twenty dollars. The third Saturday in December Mark announced that he had made a list and had his money in his pocket.
I drove him to a local drug store, the modern version of what we used to call the “Five and Dime.” Mark picked up a hand basket and went off on his own while I waited patiently reading a book at the front of the store. It took Mark over 45 minutes to pick out his presents.
The smile on his face as he approached the checkout counter was truly joyful. The clerk rang up his purchases as I politely looked the other way. Mark kept within his budget and reached into his pocket for his money. It was not there. There was a hole in his pocket, but no money.
Mark stood in the middle of the store holding his basket, tears rolling down his cheeks. His whole body was shaking with his sobs. Then an amazing thing happened.
A customer in the store came up to Mark. She knelt down to his level and took him in her arms and said, “You would do me the greatest favor if you let me replace your money. It would be the most wonderful present you could ever give me. I only ask that one day, you pass it on. One day, when you are grown, I would like you to find someone you can help. When you do help this other person, I know you will feel as good about it as I do now.” Mark took the money, tried to dry his tears and ran to the checkout counter as fast as he could go. I think we all enjoyed our gifts that year almost as much as Mark enjoyed giving them to us.
I would like to say “thank you” to that incredible woman. I would like to tell her that four years later Mark went house to house collecting blankets and coats for the people in the Oakland fire – and he thought of her. I would like to tell her every time I give food to a homeless family, I think of her. And I want to promise her that Mark will never forget to keep passing it on.
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