I was raised very poor. That is something I say often because it comes up often and it is something I have never been ashamed of because I don’t see the point in being ashamed of where you came from. It is okay to come from a family of little wealth but a lot of love.

Though we had little means, my mother always managed to put on quite the holiday season. Thanksgiving is incredibly expensive—something I know is true now that I’m an adult—but she still managed to put quite a bit of food on the table. We had great holidays as kids. Christmas, though…Christmas was quite honestly magic.

When we were kids, we got the world, or so it felt. We had overflowing stockings and gifts from my mother and unwrapped gifts for all of us from Santa Claus. I don’t know how my mother was ever able to afford such extravagances, but one year, she was struggling to make ends meet. She had been laid off earlier that year. Though none of us would have ever dreamt of complaining about having a littler Christmas, my mom’s friends submitted our names to one of those “help a family” charities, the angel trees at local churches and the secular organizations that just wanted to pitch in. I’m sure my younger brothers weren’t really aware of the situation, but my mom let me and my older brother know that we were being sponsored that year and to make a wish list.

When my mother asked us for our wish lists, none of us even knew how to make one. We had a great Christmas that year. We got thermal blankets and sports stuff and makeup. My mom was in a great mood because she didn’t have to go into even further debt trying to make our Christmas special. They even gave us a turkey and other food for Christmas dinner. Everyone was stoked. No one was stressed. Our Christmas season was made that year because of the kindness of strangers—something that I could never, ever forget.

I don’t make very much money in my life, but I know I have more money than my mother ever had. I don’t have four kids to support. I don’t have anything getting in the way of me being a charitable human being. And so every year, in memory of that very special Christmas, I donate to a charity or adopt a family or pick a name off of the giving tree.

I can’t let a Christmas season go by without donating a bit of my time and money. I think of how happy we were that year and I think about how happy I can make another family. Taking stress off of someone’s parent and giving joy to a young child is all that the holidays mean to me anymore.

If you can, you should give. Check your local charities and help someone out. You have no idea how much it will shape the rest of their lives.