02/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011


Every year at the holidays, I try to drop a few dollars into the red bucket. But I have to admit. It's just a habit. And I never think that much about where the money goes. I just assume that something good will happen for someone, somewhere.

When Arlijohn shared this story, I realized that a simple donation I made leaving the store may actually help someone in need. Even in a small way. And I was glad to start the New Year with that thought in mind.

By Arlijohn

Years ago when I was a 17-year-old mother with a baby, I did something really stupid. I wanted to get home to Texas from south Florida, and I didn't have any money, so I hitchhiked. It wasn't so unusual in those days. Lots of people traveled that way. Anyway, the end all is the driver of the car stole everything the baby and I had and left us stranded outside Pennsacola.

A lady saw me crying by the side of the road and gave me a ride to the police station. The police didn't know what to do with me. I couldn't stay at the jail, I had a baby in my arms. The sheriff made a call, loaded us up in his car and drove us to the Salvation Army.

I was the only woman there during the holidays, and the rest were big rough looking men. They were so kind to us, making a fuss over the baby, feeding me every time I opened my mouth and just reassuring me everything would be all right.

Mealtimes I was sat next to the minister, and he would question me about whether I was being treated properly and about my future plans. At that point I would dissolve into tears and whimper that I just wanted to go home.

One morning a woman in one of those blue suits came in and announced the baby and I were leaving. She had formula and diapers for the baby and a bus ticket and food voucher for me. At the bus station she shook my hand and walked me to the bus. I thanked her for all the kindness and got on the bus.

Yeah, we see them all the time. People in santa hats ringing a bell in front of a store. Or, a man in the funny blue suit playing the trumpet. Most of the time we don't give them much thought. Just remember to donate because someday they might help you too.

Share your stories about acts of kindness, both giving and receiving, on Tokoni.