Christmas traditions: sending kindness back out into the world

Jessica Goodwin Hyland's

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On December 17, 2016, my husband, 18-month-old son, and I returned from an afternoon walk to find our home engulfed in flames. We lost everything.

We quickly came to the realization that the material possessions that were destroyed weren’t worth nearly as much as the knowledge that our family, including our two cats who were inside the house, was safe from harm.

We threw together a makeshift Christmas that year, in a temporary apartment. A last-minute tree, a pre-made grocery store dinner, and lots of tears. But all that mattered was that we had each other.

In the days and weeks after the fire, we were blessed to receive a ton of support from our friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. The kindness of everyone touched us beyond words. We learned that even during the darkest times of trouble, there is still kindness in the world. There was no way to explain the immense amount of gratitude that we felt. That we still continue to feel, two years later.

Each year on December 17th, we attempt to express that gratitude. The three of us deliver breakfast to the fire station and the emergency vet who helped us that night. It’s a small gesture, but one that we will continue to make every year. Our son, who’s three now, thankfully, was too young at the time of the fire to remember what happened. But someday, we’ll tell him about it so that he understands why we make a special visit to those places each year.

For now, we’re trying to teach him that it’s important to help where and when we can. To be a good neighbor. To be kind. Not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. My husband and I both used Facebook to raise money for the fire department on our birthdays. We donate clothing, toys, food, and books whenever the opportunity arises. We’ve helped other families who’ve suffered through the devastation and loss of their homes because of fire. Any little bit helps.

I hope my son grows up to understand that. That any little bit helps. That it only takes one good deed, no matter how small, to make a difference. We were on the receiving end of so much kindness a few years ago that I hope he learns to send that kindness back out into the world, all year long.

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Jessica Goodwin

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