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What Giving Means to Me: A Short Story

Anne is a freelancer with a passion for writing and helping others by writing about important topics and issues.


What Giving Means to Me

So many of my family members taught me about the gift of giving, but I guess for this chapter I want to focus on two people: Specifically, my Aunt Anne Marie and my uncle Dickie. My aunt Anne Marie passed away from cancer this summer, and my uncle Dickie passed away a few years before that. The mystery behind their diagnosis is that they both ended up with the same cancer, and they could never figure out how they had gotten it in the first place. My thinking is that they were just meant to be there, together in heaven, sooner than expected.

But this story is not about their struggles in their last days with cancer, although there is story enough to tell there. Like the signet ring that I wear every day now that belonged to my aunt Anne Marie. How she let me know that I would have to carry on the family name, the legacy of “Anne Marie”, as I like to call it, and that I fully intend on doing so, and possibly, if I have a girl, naming my child Anne Marie as well. I wanted to start that tradition.

There are so many memories I have of them, so many things I remember from my youth, about the way their house smelled; about the excitement of football game parties and the fourth of July celebrations. The soothing sound of the fishpond as I walked across the deck, passing by family members and friends at gatherings. I was young then. When I got a little older, it was exciting to be able to sleep over and hang out in the pool house. I can fondly remember Sara, Steve, and I going into the pool house and shooting pool. The sound of the blue chalk rubbing against the stick, the crackle of the balls as we hit them. The excitement of listening to the balls swirl around in a maze underneath the table and trying to figure out what side of the table they would end up on as they made their journey beneath the table. I remember sitting in the dining room on the floor and playing with the box of the many hand-me-down toys of my cousins; always fascinated by the little figurines and people. Or walking past the kitchen and seeing the cool collection of miniature items on these teeny tiny shelves on the wall. My aunt Anne Marie was a lot like grandma. She would always spoil us when we came over, and of course, my mom was looking out for that. I remember hearing a couple of arguments between my mom and Anne Marie. Somehow still, we always managed to get what we wanted. Or the time my Uncle Dickie accidentally lit the deck on fire one fourth of July. I wasn’t old enough to remember it; all I know is nobody would let him forget that accident, but he often laughed his butt off about it with us. He always had this sense of humor that I loved. The way he smiled and laughed and joked around about everything. I don’t think I ever saw my uncle Dickie without a smile on his face. He used to mess with my brother, sister, and I by telling us this story about the “hide behinds”. Of course, he was trying to scare the living daylights out of us. The hide behinds were basically these things that were always watching you; always behind you. You should have seen us at family get togethers, constantly turning around and around to look behind us even though nothing was there, and my uncle Dickie chuckling. I think my sister and brother at least could see through the story as fake, but I actually genuinely believed it for a while, and was legitimately freaked out about it. Thanks, Uncle Dickie. But this isn’t really about that. What we were talking about was the gift of giving. I can say that my aunts and uncles, Anne Marie and Dickie included, are the people that taught me this important value. They were very religious. I grew up in a Catholic family, so there were many traditions I was accustomed to at a very young age. I remember going to St. Benedicts a lot when I was younger. I always thought the church smelled funny, and the pews hurt my butt. I remember having to pull out those things behind the seats and kneel down during certain parts of the masses. What I really remember was the giant mural on the walls, glimmering in the sunlight that shone in through the stained-glass windows. My mom thought it was always funny because apparently (I wasn’t old enough to witness this), but apparently my brother thought the mural of Jesus, Mary, and the disciples and all that was the Thundercats. This has been a story we have carried and passed down for years because it is just so hilarious, but I can kind of see it now, with those bright colors and their long hair and all that. I could see how maybe they might have looked like the Thundercats. But anyway, my very religious Catholic family has always instilled in me a passion for faith and the gift of giving, and what I want to focus on here is giving.

An image from the film "Pay it Forward".

An image from the film "Pay it Forward".

Paying it Forward

Anyway, I want to take you back further than that. The year is 2000, and I am going over to my aunt and uncle’s house to spend the night. I used to do this, plenty of times, either to Anne Marie and Dickie’s or to my aunt Bettie and uncle Bobby’s house. Tonight, Anne Marie had ordered us some takeout Chinese, which I rarely got to eat since my parents really aren’t big fans of Chinese food, so I was excited. It’s important that I also mention that Anne Marie is also my godmother, along with my uncle David. I’m not sure why I didn’t tell you before but I’m telling you now.

After ordering the food and getting ready, my uncle Dickie comes home with a movie for us to watch while eating, called “Pay It Forward”. It sounded like an interesting movie. I was eleven years old at the time, and the movie was rated PG-13, so I kind of felt cool watching it. This was before I started watching rated-R movies with my brother. That would happen about a year later, when our parents were asleep, and he wanted to instill in me the cinematic genius of Kevin Smith and other directors of the time.

So, we started watching the movie. It’s about a boy who gets an assignment from his history teacher, basically saying to come up with a way to change the world. The boy, smartly says, “you are asking us to change the world?” as if in disbelief that there is anything that he could possibly do to change the world. That’s when his whole “Pay it Forward” theory comes into play. He discovers that he wants to help people, and that if he were to help just three people, and then those three people helped three other people, he would be able to change and touch 4,782,969 lives in just two weeks. As the movie shows, his plan doesn’t exactly work out the way he wanted it to. He is discouraged and fed up that he can’t seem to change things or help people.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie is when the boy says:

“Some people are too scared or something to think things can be different. The world’s not exactly….shit. I guess it’s hard for some people who are so used to things the way they are, even if they are bad, to change and they kinda give up and when they do, everybody loses.”

It’s an interesting statement, and not exactly far from the truth. But what he really learns, in the end, is that he DID help people, his motivation and inspiration to do the right thing did change people, even if he didn’t realize it. The movie definitely made me cry at certain points, but what I will remember the most if the feeling I got after watching it.

After, looking at my uncle and aunt, talking to them about the movie before going to bed, and thinking about the lesson that is learned from doing something like that. We don’t often think that certain things are a gift, or that we are giving anything to anyone, until they change, or until we see something that causes a change. We never really know who we are influencing, or who we are helping, and the most important thing is to just “Pay it Forward” anyway. My uncle was a very religious person. (Did I mention I was raised Catholic?). So, he believed in a lot of the supernatural things, the “miracles”, if you will, of the human consciousness. So that has always been a moment that has stuck with me, and I think it does have a lot to do with giving.

In life, you can only hope that you “pay it forward” to the ones that come after you, your children, your children’s children, etc. by imparting the greatest knowledge and wisdom that you have. How my aunt and uncle “payed it forward” to me? To know that you should always help out a friend in need, always be there for that person, always know that there is some bigger force out there, bigger than us all, that has blessed us with the gift of life and the gift of giving. You have hands for a reason, and that reason is to put it towards doing something great, and to me, that is the idea of “paying it forward”. and that’s something I still take with me to this day, something that I try and pass on to the students I teach, along with my grandparents’ message about humbleness, and so forth, and so forth. That’s how you “pay it forward”.

© 2022 Anne Marie Carr

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