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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

In September of 1990 I had my fifth child, the baby was perfect, but my future looked bleak. My ex, became my ex the week before I gave birth. My son was my second child in two years. My hormones were going crazy.

For months my ex put me through an emotional wringer. He had promised to spend Thanksgiving Day with the children, then never called. The next day my emotions overwhelmed me. I realized I could not remain on the roller coaster ride I had allowed my ex to turn my life into.

That night I went to my first Al-Anon meeting. Listening to other people describe the scenarios I had lived through, I realized I was not crazy. I had thought I was totally going bonkers! I felt infinitely better, but I knew by midweek I would be buried under stress and self-doubt. I needed to re-enforce the message.

I lived in a very small, rural town. I didn’t own a car. The daily Al-Non meetings were forty-five minutes away. A woman at the meeting suggested I attend AA meetings and apply the principals of Al-Anon every time someone said "One day without a drink." I was to think "One day without a drunk."

Starting on Monday and every day, after Sesame Street, I packed the two babies into the double stroller and walked to the AA meetings. My babies and I were welcomed with open arms. I remained quiet at the meetings, absorbing the strength the program gives to those who seek it.

Christmas Eve morning, my ex was at my door. He was drunk. To get him out of the house without further upsetting the children I walked him downtown, otherwise his girlfriend would pick him up at my house.

I left him waiting for her at the bakery.

The day was sunny, with a blustery wind coming off the snow covered mountains. I was agitated, afraid I would let emotions overwhelm me, I dreaded going home. Then a man from AA stepped out of the Post Office. He looked at my face and offered me a ride home.

He reminded me there are things in life we cannot control, especially the actions of others. My job was to take care of myself and my children. My ex was responsible for his own actions. I could not help him to quit drinking nor could I make him be a good father. He asked if I planned to attend a meeting that night or on Christmas Day. He assured me he would find me a ride if I needed one.

I felt better. The people in AA had been strangers a month earlier, but now they were my friends.

I had a network of people who cared. I felt whole.

I have since relocated to another state, but I will always remember that year. It was the year that I had the worst Thanksgiving and the best Christmas ever.

Material gifts are not what matter, not even to children. It is about caring for others. The stranger who drove me home talked to me when I needed it. I gave my children a happy day instead of moping. I didn’t go to a meeting; instead I invited people who were alone to spend the day with us. Good companions warm the soul like a fire in a hearth on a winter’s day.

The holidays are trying times for many. If you know someone who might be having a difficult time dealing with the holidays, please talk to them. Let them know that they are not alone, even when a person is surrounded by family, they can feel alone. Some people hide their distress behind smiles. Look them in the eyes and you will see the truth. 

When we give the gift of compassion it is the greatest gift of all.


  1. Lovely post. Sorry you had such a rough patch but glad there were people there for you.

    1. Jillian, fortunately for me, I had five fantastic children to push over the rough areas. I just hope any one who needs assistance can find the right help. This is a rough time of year.

  2. I appreciate you sharing your story. I was touched and you're right. It is about caring.

  3. This is a WONDERFUL post, Liberty. Thank you!

  4. Great post Liberty. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing, and the reminder, Liberty, both that others may appreciate our help, but also that some, like your ex, may not be capable of accepting it.

  6. Thank you for sharing so much from the heart. <3

  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences; you are an awesome, strong woman and I so admire you for all you've gone through. I'm honored to call you 'friend'.