I was leaving the Ronald McDonald House to go see My son, Cooper, at the University of Iowa Childeren's Hospital two days before Christmas 2014 and I was approached by someone in the parking lot asking if I volunteered at the Mac House or if I was staying there.
I answered that I was a guest and she told me that they had a gift for me. To be honest, I was half expecting a blanket or gift basket, so I wasn't prepared for the story she told. With her daughter, who looked to be in her upper teens, and a friend of her daughter in tow, she told me about the Christmas Jar they were holding.
It is a large, very simply decorated jar (gallon size, maybe bigger) they fill change all year long and give it to another family at Christmas time. I really couldn't believe it. She told me they had been doing it for several years and that they were just happy to help folks like us.
A few years back her husband required a liver transplant, which he did receive and is now happy, healthy, and free of liver disease. It is just their way of giving back.
I did my best to tell our story choking back tears and asked for an address and names to send a thank you card or something. Anything. She politely declined and said all they wanted was for us to read the book included called Christmas Jars and keep the tradition going when we are able.
After some teary hugs of thanks, they drove away in a car every bit as old as mine, honking and waving back to me. Talk about angels. I guess I got picked because I was the first guy out of the door. I have no idea how much is in the jar, but it is a lot more than pocket change to us.
Inside the front cover of the book, the inscription reads.
"To our new Christmas family, May this "Christmas Jar" bring new hope to you and your family this holiday season, From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! 2014"
I am sure after reading the book I will better understand better why they wanted to remain anonymous.
More about us: On October 31st, 2014, our son Cooper came into this world 3 months earlier than expected. It was the scariest Halloween trick or treat of our life. He weighed only 1 lb 11 oz and was just 12.5" long. He had a good start through what they call the honeymoon period but his lungs were very much underdeveloped and he had a common issue with an open duct in the heart that wasn't helping matter.
We have been by his side constantly, living at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City because we were in the middle of relocating from Moline, IL to Dallas, TX for my job. He has had his ups and downs and very dark days, but he has rallied and has strung together lots of good days. We may be able to take him home in a few months once his lungs heal if there are no other setback.
God sends us angels when we need them. He sent them this time with a jar and story. Let's keep tradition and human kindness alive.
Robert, Lisa, and Cooper Burnett