Winter has come early, in many ways, to Chicago. For many reasons, for so many, November nights have been bitter cold.

Yet pick a night, and you’ll likely find my baby sister, Alison, dressed as Mrs. Claus, handing out gifts of clothing, food, school supplies and toys to hundreds of challenged families from all around the areas surrounding her town of La Grange.

In a long line of cars, every cold night, they pull up to Alison.

On the surface, she puts a box of needed ‘essentials’ in their trunk. She walks up to their car door, and they roll down their window. She hands them an envelope with a little extra.

But she gives these parents and grandparents something else.

A little bit of hope.

With her mask on her face, and handing that envelope through the window – it’s the look in Alison’s eyes that’s the real gift.
She’s looking right through them. Feeling the pain of that roller coaster of this year that just keeps twisting and turning – right when you think the damn thing is going to stop. And it doesn’t.

In that short moment, with their faces only a few feet apart, she reminds them that giving — giving is the vaccine.

Giving is the one thing that can temporarily calm this crazy winter storm.

Reminds me of a crocus.

When snow covers absolutely everything, there’s one flower that will have none of that.

Against every possible odd, little by little, this mighty flower relentlessly pushes its way up through the hard, cold snow until it sticks its head out into the sunlight above.

Beautifully blossoms on a blank canvas of snow.

That’s my sister.

Alison has been doing this for over a decade. Gives tons of hours, all year long, leading up to these November nights. The November nights are Alison’s sticking her head out of the snow.

The real beauty of the crocus is all about what happens under the snow.
Christmas comes in different ways. Knowing my sister will be out there again tonight, pushing against this winter storm…

No gift could be bigger.