Memoir Muse: The Giving House

By

Marc

I wanted to share this article by Linda Dahlstrom Anderson on today.com because I think it illustrates pretty much how the REAL WORLD world actually is (article below / article link at bottom):

The giving house: Countless acts of kindness help parents honor their late son

Just as our friends showed up for us after our son died, people are showing up now for each other.

I didn’t expect the ramen. The fruit leather caught me off guard as well.

Just a day earlier, my husband Mike had finished installing one of those little wooden houses for free books that have been popping up in front of houses across the country in recent years. But in a year where an estimated 50 million people in the United States may face hunger due to the effects of COVID-19, we thought we’d also fill ours with free food.

We loaded it up with a mixture of peanut butter, granola bars, E. Annie Proulx, tuna, Iris Murdoch, canned carrots, Celeste Ng, black beans and a collection of the historical fiction my 91-year-old mom cycles through quickly.

The next day, I posted a photo of our little house on a community Facebook page, inviting anyone to come take what they wanted. Like neighborhoods all over the world, the effects of the pandemic have come home to mine with people on our block who have lost jobs, are struggling to keep their small businesses afloat or have health issues and are unable to risk going to the grocery store.

The Anderson family never expected the numerous acts of kindness -- in Phoenix's memory -- that neighbors and strangers have contributed during this global pandemic.

 

The Anderson family never expected the numerous acts of kindness -- in Phoenix's memory -- that neighbors and strangers have contributed during this global pandemic.

When I checked on the little house that evening, many of the food items had already disappeared. But just a half hour later, when I went to restock it, someone else already had. The shelves were stuffed with ramen, applesauce, fruit leather and more.

It’s been happening almost every day since. Food will disappear — and then replenish itself. Sugar. Flour. Macaroni. One evening a jar of peanut butter disappeared and a few hours later, a stranger had replaced it with a different brand, as well as some spaghetti noodles. Earlier this week, we found a note in our mailbox with cash to help restock the little house. It was simply signed “Your friends and neighbors."

It fills me with wonder. But then again, this kind of thing has been happening around this time of winter for the last 15 years.

It started with my oldest son, Phoenix. This December 3 marks his 16th birthday — an age of driver’s licenses, new facial hair, high school crushes and a prelude to adulthood.

Except, not for him.

Phoenix died of bacterial meningitis when he was only 7 months and 4 days old, when his hair was still as soft and wispy as silk and his cheeks as plump as a peach. All these years later, I still remember how his cheek felt against my lips. I hope I always do.

This December 3rd, Phoenix would have turned 16 years old.

 

This December 3rd, Phoenix would have turned 16 years old. 

At his memorial service, our friend Rev. Cathryn Cummings encouraged us to let our love for our beautiful boy radiate out into the world. She nudged us to celebrate his birthdays and look for ways to honor him, the ripples of his life spreading into wider and wider circles of the joy and love he’d given us. “Death is not the final word,” she said. “Love is the final word.”

Five months later, on the devastating December day he should have been turning 1, I made cupcakes and took them to Phoenix’s grave, sang to him, kissed the grass over where he was buried — and went shopping. Mike and I had decided we’d “adopt” a child from a department store’s holiday giving tree and buy Christmas presents for someone the same age as Phoenix should have been. I would have given anything to be able to buy Christmas presents for my son; maybe we could do it for someone else’s.

 

Linda Dahlstrom Anderson with her son Phoenix in 2004.

 

Linda Dahlstrom Anderson with her son Phoenix in 2004. Linda Dahlstrom Anderson

It was the start of our new tradition: creating joy for others as a tribute to Phoenix on his birthday.

Over the years, friends have joined us and the circle has widened. Now, our tradition is to ask anyone who wants to help celebrate his birthday to do one small act of kindness for someone. Our best gift is when they tell us about it.

In the last 15 years, we’ve heard about hundreds of acts of generosity around the world, many by people who never even met Phoenix: warm socks collected for those without homes, toys for children with cancer in Uganda, groceries for paramedics, donations to families displaced by fire, mosquito nets for people threatened by malaria, restaurant tabs secretly picked up, donations to children’s organizations and so much more. Our beautiful son Gabriel, born two years after Phoenix died and now 13 years old, often uses his own money and buys food for people without. This year, we decided to install the little house — and through it, we’ve discovered the circle has widened to include perfect strangers.

The legacy of our boy goes on in these ways. Just as our friends showed up for us after he died, people are showing up now for each other. We all need each other. The devastation of COVID-19 and the last year has shown us more than ever how true that is.

The giving house is filled with everything from ramen noodles and granola bars to books and peanut butter.

 

The giving house is filled with everything from ramen noodles and granola bars to books and peanut butter. David Quigg

In the darkest times, I have found, if you look hard for the light, sometimes you can find it. The juxtaposition of despair and acts of kindness perhaps makes it shine that much brighter. One does not cancel out the other; they exist together. And when we can’t find the light, maybe we can create it ourselves. Right now, as COVID-19 is skyrocketing with an estimated 13 million cases and 270,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, we need to find ways to take care of each other.

None of us knows how much we’ll touch the lives around us and the real impact a kind word or deed might have. Phoenix wasn’t destined to grow up to be the man I had dreamed he’d someday become. But his life has had lasting meaning.

Sometimes, I think of that first year when our friends and family began doing kind deeds in honor of Phoenix’s birthday. It was like a bell was rung. And the sound from that caused vibrations that set off other bells, reaching all around the world to envelop people and help them feel like they belong, like someone cares.

I hope it goes on for years to come. That’s my birthday wish for him this year.

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I love this article because of two things:

1. The Anderson family took a devastating event (the death of their son) and turned it into something extremely unique and wonderful.

2. When they decided to stock their free book house with food because of COVID (a great idea) it would miraculously get restocked by unknown and unseen folks.

The article quote: 'The legacy of our boy goes on in these ways. Just as our friends showed up for us after he died, people are showing up now for each other. We all need each other. The devastation of COVID-19 and the last year has shown us more than ever how true that is' is also certainly valid and relevant. 

During my own life, I have seen that same sense of good-hearted compassion and generosity demonstrated many times. I know that the vast majority of people are good - and some very good, like the Anderson's neighbors.

And although those type of topics - positive things - are not sensational and "must watch" TV, they are still very valuable and great to see from time to time.

Great job, Andersons!

Thank you, Linda for writing this story.

Do YOU have a story to tell your family (and maybe your friends)?

I'll bet you do.

Try out The Life Writer App for free here: https://www.thelifewriter.com/user/register

This video will show you how it works: 

Here is Linda's excellent article:

 

 

 

 

 

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