The best gift you give this year can’t top this

Packing up and moving a family is stressful; doing it while nine months pregnant made me downright cranky.

The fact that the sellers whose house we were buying wouldn’t vacate five days sooner to prevent a hotel stay with two little kids and said pregnant belly made me incensed!

Certainly, my sad/frantic/uncomfortable state deserved some accommodation. None was given. But, alas, as things tend to do, they all worked out.

The day we moved in, some three and half years ago, I pulled open a drawer in my closet and found some cards and other personal items.  Obviously, I sifted through and started to read them. (This was my house now, so tact was replaced entirely by nosiness.) The items belonged to the mother of the home, it appeared:  handwritten cards from children over some years and others from an aging parent.  The raging hormones made me even more sentimental than usual and I became extra judgy. Who would leave such keepsakes behind?? I knew! The witch who made me stay in a hotel for 5 days.

To me, these were the invaluable items I would grab in the event in a fire. And though my children were barely beyond toddlerhood, I could imagine how gratifying it would be to one day read words of love and appreciation from older children. This woman left them carelessly scattered in the drawer of the home she had just sold.

I felt annoyed and saddened, but had no time to deal with these emotions. I threw all of the cards and items into a box and onto a shelf in the garage. Practicality told me to take a few steps over to the garbage and throw everything out, but I couldn’t do it. My sentimentality got in the way and I found myself affected by this stranger’s stuff. But I forgot all about them.

Three years later, I found the box again. I huffed at the idea of, once again, feeling connected to this junk. The garbage was still just a few feet away. Instead, I went to my computer.

I googled the previous owner’s name. I found her place of employment and picked up the phone. When the voice on the other end confirmed that the woman still worked there, I was on a mission.

I went to the post office, bought a flat rate box, and threw all of the memorabilia inside. I sat down to write a note but what was I supposed to say?

“You’re an idiot for forgetting these.”

“I found your items but didn’t have the heart to throw them away.”

“I have no idea if this stuff matters to you but I’m sending it anyway.”

I taped up the box without any correspondence whatsoever. The contents spoke for themselves, right? Finally, the saga was over.

And it was, until I sifted through the mail one day and opened a hand-written note from this woman. It took less than a minute for the animosity I had felt toward her to disintegrate. In fact, I felt like the Grinch, whose heart expanded a couple of sizes. It turns out, she had saved her most precious possessions for last in the packing process and simply forgot them.

She went as far as to say she believed they were safely tucked away with the myriad boxes that resided in a storage unit she rented. I patted myself on the back when she wrote that she cried at the sight of her children’s notes and the precious heirlooms that had been passed down from her great grandmother.

This woman is a stranger. I wouldn’t know her if I passed her on the street. But we are connected through motherhood. Along with her gratitude, she wished me well: “I’m happy that the home in which I raised my family is now in the hands of a mother like you.”

There is nothing in the world like a mother’s intuition. This note emboldened me to follow mine.

And the gift of compassion isn’t always for those who are most obviously in need. Sometimes we fill the biggest void where we never knew there was one.