I’m still not done paying for that free turkey

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I'm still not done paying for that free turkey

The most expen­sive turkey I ever got was free.

It was a cold and bleak night in early Decem­ber. Din­ner hadn’t gone so well – my wife was wor­ried over how we would han­dle Christ­mas, and I had no answers for her. My news­pa­per had gone on strike in Sep­tem­ber, and there was no end in sight. Happy hol­i­days? Humbug!

While Shirley was still work­ing as a school­teacher, our finan­cial sit­u­a­tion was grim, espe­cially since we had just bought a house the pre­vi­ous summer.

As I watched the evening news and Shirley was doing the dishes, a knock came at the door. I was sur­prised – we rarely had unan­nounced vis­i­tors at night – so I was wary when I got up to answer it. My sur­prise grew even greater when I saw the fire chief of the city I cov­ered as a reporter stand­ing on the porch.

The guys were get­ting the list together for our Christ­mas turkey give­away, and your name came up,” the chief said. “We fig­ured things might be tight for you because you’ve been on strike so long.”

I was almost speech­less as he handed me a 12-​pound frozen turkey, but I finally stam­mered out my thanks. I called in Shirley from the kitchen, and she man­aged to express our grat­i­tude more eloquently.

The fire chief prob­a­bly for­got about his visit to my home long ago, but I never did. It changed my life.

Ever since, I give spe­cial atten­tion to peo­ple in need when the hol­i­days roll around.

For the first few years after the strike, I couldn’t do much more than throw pocket change into a Sal­va­tion Army ket­tle. Our finances remained pre­car­i­ous, par­tic­u­larly because Shirley was laid off within a month after I found a new job.

But I was able to step up my game even after the kids arrived as I moved up to a well-​paying posi­tion at a daily paper. I diver­si­fied my giv­ing, too, adding a range of local char­i­ties to my list of ben­e­fi­cia­ries. I found out the more I gave, the bet­ter I felt.

Unlike some of my friends, I try to keep my dona­tions a secret. I give to receive an inner reward, not to demon­strate my gen­eros­ity to the pub­lic. In fact, the only rea­son I’m writ­ing this post is because it won’t appear under my real name.

My giv­ing won’t set any records – I admire (and am a bit envi­ous of) the good souls who anony­mously drop gold coins in Sal­va­tion Army ket­tles – but I hope my con­tri­bu­tions lift the spir­its of at least a few peo­ple in despair and pos­si­bly inspire them to be more gen­er­ous when they see bet­ter days.

By my count, that free turkey from the fire­fight­ers has cost me more than $3,000 to date. And I’m not done pay­ing for it yet.

The most expensive turkey I ever got was free.

It was a cold and bleak night in early December. Dinner hadn’t gone so well – my wife was worried over how we would handle Christmas, and I had no answers for her. My newspaper had gone on strike in September, and there was no end in sight. Happy holidays? Humbug!

While Shirley was still working as a schoolteacher, our financial situation was grim, especially since we had just bought a house the previous summer.

As I watched the evening news and Shirley was doing the dishes, a knock came at the door. I was surprised – we rarely had unannounced visitors at night – so I was wary when I got up to answer it. My surprise grew even greater when I saw the fire chief of the city I covered as a reporter standing on the porch.

“The guys were getting the list together for our Christmas turkey giveaway, and your name came up,” the chief said. “We figured things might be tight for you because you’ve been on strike so long.”

I was almost speechless as he handed me a 12-pound frozen turkey, but I finally stammered out my thanks. I called in Shirley from the kitchen, and she managed to express our gratitude more eloquently.

The fire chief probably forgot about his visit to my home long ago, but I never did. It changed my life.

Ever since, I give special attention to people in need when the holidays roll around.

For the first few years after the strike, I couldn’t do much more than throw pocket change into a Salvation Army kettle. Our finances remained precarious, particularly because Shirley was laid off within a month after I found a new job.

But I was able to step up my game even after the kids arrived as I moved up to a well-paying position at a daily paper. I diversified my giving, too, adding a range of local charities to my list of beneficiaries. I found out the more I gave, the better I felt.

Unlike some of my friends, I try to keep my donations a secret. I give to receive an inner reward, not to demonstrate my generosity to the public. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this post is because it won’t appear under my real name.

My giving won’t set any records – I admire (and am a bit envious of) the good souls who anonymously drop gold coins in Salvation Army kettles – but I hope my contributions lift the spirits of at least a few people in despair and possibly inspire them to be more generous when they see better days.

By my count, that free turkey from the firefighters has cost me more than $3,000 to date. And I’m not done paying for it yet.