Sometimes I think the meanings of holidays get lost. I am not suggesting we forget or neglect to express thanks or gratitude on Thanksgiving – we see and experience that every holiday. But what I’m referring to is the ‘thanks’ and the ‘giving’ that have nothing to do with turkey and trimmings.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I experienced one of the best ‘thanks givings’ anyone could wish for. Since moving into my new home, my (arguably) over-active intuition had been in overdrive – an unsettled feeling that something was wrong with the outdoor faucets.

But, in a small town where businesses and contractors have not kept up with the growth and are also hit hard by unemployment as a result of pandemic shutdowns – it is nearly impossible to schedule a plumber when you want one. I had been waiting months for a plumber and my calls to the irrigation company went unanswered. But then a true emergency with water spewing down my driveway was happening and the one company who answered my call said, “we can’t respond to emergencies right now – we just don’t have the people.”

There is something especially unsettling and humbling when you have an emergency and there is no one available.

So, as I had done before – I reached out to Lisa and Gilbert. They are busy. They have full lives. They have countless obligations. I told Lisa a few weeks ago she is the busiest person I know. I’m not sure when they have time to sleep yet they never seem rushed and harried. Happiness and contentment emanate from them. The holiday was approaching and they had family coming. And, I no longer live around the corner from them – I am not a convenient stop along the way to anything.

Despite their busy schedules, they responded immediately. They provided advice on what to do. I had managed to switch off the turbulent geyser of water but with another sub-freezing night on the way, I was facing the very real potential of a frozen pipe that would this time destroy the well or the pump or worse.

I had mostly resigned myself to the fact that no one would come, that no one could come, and the situation was out of my control. I simply didn’t have the skills, the tools, or experience to know what to do.

And then, the two people with more obligations than anyone I know somehow found time – once again – for me. My phone pinged with a text, “We’re on our way.” I had not asked them to come yet they were coming anyway. They pulled up the wet, muddy driveway with their vehicle full of tools and wires and lamps and heaters. A neighbor who had seen the stream of water that had made its way out to the road, lent her saw and we all got to work, cutting a pipe in order to reach a valve. To me, we might as well have been performing open-heart surgery – they were speaking in ‘valve’ language and all I was hearing was ‘aortic valve, mitral valve, bicuspid valve’. I wanted to help but I didn’t know how.

When they realized they needed another tool, without questioning the inconvenient drive, they drove back home and returned with another tool. It was getting dark and cold and Lisa and Gilbert had given me hours of their time. The water was slowed to a trickle, we covered the pipe as if it was a young chick – keeping it warm with a heat lamp. The pipe would be ok through the night and so would my home.

As they prepared to leave, I asked them how I could repay them. How does one repay that type of selfless act? Gilbert simply replied, “just pay it forward, when the time comes when you can help someone, just pay it forward – that’s how you can pay us.”

I am a sensitive soul. I think deeply and feel even deeper. Some think my expression of emotion and tears is a sign of weakness, others have called me a cry baby. But in the realization of all they had done for me – someone they’ve not known all that long – my tears began to surface from a deep well of gratitude. It is difficult to be vulnerable – it takes strength to not only ask for advice and help but to also receive it. The feeling of being helpless can break us open to the understanding that we aren’t islands – that we need connection just like we need oxygen.

Yet even then, I pretended my tears – having lived through decades of ridicule for being “too sensitive” were because I was feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable with being needy. But my tears weren’t about that. My tears were helping me feel and see the realization that I was in the presence of love, of true giving – and my heart was giving thanks in the only way it understood at the moment. The tears that rolled down my face were drops of gratitude spewing from my heart – much like the water from the frozen pipe.

Thanks giving is about expressing our thanks and gratitude for the gifts we receive. Because of Lisa and Gilbert, my heart expanded with love and the understanding that it was ok to need help, it was ok to receive it, and I promised to them both that yes, someday, some way, I will pay it forward.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Lisa and a Gilbert in their lives, but for those of you who do – you’ll understand. And if the only way your heart knows how to express thanks in those moments is through tears – then that’s ok too.

Happy Thanks Giving.