My Story by Don Germaise from the Holiday 2013 issue of GoodLiving Magazine
My daughter Lexi was 14 years old and going through those difficult teenage years when she knew everything and her parents knew nothing. We could not connect at all. In Lexi’s mind, my sole function in life was to provide a roof over her head and$10 allowance a week. We had not gotten along well for years. I figured that was life with a teenager. It hadn’t always been that way. We had always been a family of volunteers. We worked in the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent, picked up trash with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, and helped out at church with any project they had. We started giving to needy causes when Lexi was a toddler. It was our fun family activity. However, as my daughter entered adolescence and joined the “Me Generation,” she stopped volunteering.
She would rather hang out with her friends. One day, Lexi wanted an $80 concert ticket and asked me for the money. I told her she needed to save her allowance. She told me she only had $50 and pleaded for my assistance. I offered to help. I agreed to give her fifty cents for every can or box of food she collected from neighbors for the Metropolitan Ministries food drive. She got mad and stormed off , saying she could never collect that much food. She needed the money to buy that ticket the next week! Then a funny thing happened. Lexi collected her 60 cans of food in just one day. As agreed, I gave her $30. She handed it back to me. She also gave me the $50 she saved from her own allowance. Lexi said, “Dad, poor people need to eat more than I need to go to the concert.”
I cried tears of joy that day. I am crying now as I write these words to you. My daughter remembered the lesson I taught her while she was growing up. It really is better to give than to receive. Lexi is now a sophomore at USF, where she volunteers on campus with several organizations. Every holiday season, we still make it a point to spend four or five days volunteering to help the needy. It puts us in the holiday spirit.
This year, there are more than 20,000 Tampa Bay families struggling to make ends meet. They can’t even think about buying Christmas gifts, because they have to pay rent and buy food. There are thousands of elderly shut-ins and nursing home patients who have no one to wish them a Merry Christmas. There are families with children in the hospital, whose only holiday wish is good health. There are military veterans, who served our country gallantly, who will sleep beneath a cold highway overpass on Christmas Eve. If you want your family to have the best holiday it has ever had, I recommend spending a day helping people less fortunate than we are. Hold a neighborhood food drive. Spend an afternoonvisiting a nursing home and hand out Christmas cards. Work a shift at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent. Cook a meal for Ronald McDonald House guests who are spending Christmas nursing a sick child back to health. Help your children learn what my daughter learned: It really is better to give than receive.
Don Germaise was an award-winning television reporter for ABC News in Tampa for 19 years before retiring in 2012 to devote his time to community service. He is most remembered for his hurricane coverage, popularizing the phrase “hunker down” in 2004. In retirement, Don volunteers at Metropolitan Ministries, Ronald McDonald House, The Crisis Center, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, People For Haiti, Partners For Life, Hands Across The Bay, and Our Daily Bread. He also reads to kindergartners in Hillsborough County Schools one day a week.