Even though my sister and I were from a poor lower class family, where beer was always in the fridge, even if there was no money for milk, we were taught to think of others. On special events and holidays we made our own gifts or cards. We wrote poems or colored a picture for friends and family. Mom used May Day as a learning experience. On May Day, you made a paper basket and put fresh flowers (mostly violets from our own yard). We would hang them on a neighbor’s door knob, knock on the door, and run to hide. It was a lesson in giving anonymously. Christmas, my sixth grade year, we had no present for Mom and no money. No one from the family had offered to help us buy her anything. We knew we needed to have something for her. Having had few presents in the past, we knew one thing was better than nothing. Upon walking home from Longfellow School in Peoria, IL, we cut through the alley to get to the apartment we lived in on Spring Street. It was garbage day and we spied a metal can that was overflowing with interesting artifacts. We both began scrounging for something we could use as a gift. We were thrilled when we found a wooden plant holder shaped like a covered wagon. In our excitement, we didn’t notice the lady with another bag of garbage heading to the alley. She yelled at us to stay out of the garbage and asked if our mother knew we were digging through other people’s trash. We explained that we needed a Christmas gift for our Mom and could we please have this wooden plant holder that she was throwing out. After staring at us for a while, she relented. She told us to take it, but not to go through the trash anymore. I was grateful for her allowance, until she watched us cut through the alley home and later followed. She told our mom that we had been digging through the trash in the alley. Once we explained, yet again what we had been doing (to Mom this time) she understood. She told us it was okay this time, but please to stay out of the alley from now on, and to stay away from this particular woman. My sister and I washed off the plant holder, polished it with furniture polish and wrapped it for Christmas. Mom liked it and used it, thanking us for being so thoughtful. I remember harboring bad feelings toward the woman in the alley for telling on us, and ruining our surprise. It wasn’t until I was an adult, that I really thought about her actions. If I had come across two little girls digging in the trash in an alley for a present for their Mom, I hope I would help out. Providing money or a gift, something more appropriate for the season of giving. Even if she would have given her permission and then minded her own business, would have made me feel better toward her. But to know the story and then go tell on us? Throughout my adult life, I have met many generous people who have given freely and have given a helping hand to others everywhere. But growing up, I don’t know if it was the neighborhood, just my luck, or extenuating circumstances, but adults were often a let down. I have tried to learn from both examples and to choose to do the right thing. Every year, I have had my kids make home-made gifts for family and friends. Every year we give coats, hats, and mittens and donate toys. And every year, I try to leave at least one gift on the sly to someone signed simply from Santa. Sometimes those are the most exciting gifts to give and I hope to teach my children that giving is an honorable thing to do all year long.