How a Few Coins, a Random Act of Kindness, and a Christmas Tree Changed My Life

kids & tree

It’s been 35 years yet I still remember as if it were yesterday, heading out on a snowy cold day with my brother Todd to find a Christmas tree. It was the day before Christmas and Todd and I decided to scour the car, floor, and couch for spare change. With less than a dollar in our pocket, we began our trek to the Dairy Queen, the best place in town to buy trees.

When we arrived, a big burly man named Jug walked up and said, “How can I help you?” We explained that we came to buy a tree. He asked how much money we had and my brother held the change out in the palm of his hand. “Hmm…” the man said, “I think I have the perfect tree for you.” He walked away and came back with the largest tree on the lot.” Todd and I screamed in joy! Each grabbing an end of that big old tree, we walked back home to show our mom.

It’s difficult to write this story without tearing up because the memory is so alive in my mind. I know it’s the same with my brother who is now 45. Consider your own power- to make a difference in another person’s life. You could be the catalyst to a memory that sticks in someone’s mind for a day, week, month; or perhaps like Jug, a lifetime.

Now an adult, with children of my own, I can relate to what Jug must have experienced. It probably tore at his heart to see two kids, who had walked a couple miles in the cold, with just a few coins in their pocket- believing they would find the perfect Christmas tree. He didn’t have to give it to us- he could have made up some excuse or simply told us to come back when we had a few more dollars to spend. Yet he chose to make a difference.

Last month I took my kids to Urbana, where I grew up. Driving past the cemetery we decided to pull in. “I want to show you something,” I said. I pulled up to what is now Jug’s gravesite, and tears fell from my eyes as I saw his name inscribed in stone. I told my kids about his amazing generosity to me both when I was a child of 7 in search of that tree and later again in life as a teen of 15 in search of a job (he hired me to work at the Dairy Queen). This man, no longer alive will forever be present in my heart- his single random act of kindness played out in my mind over a lifetime. He probably had no idea what kind of impact he made on my life and that is what makes this story so special. He gave from the kindness of his heart, when no one was looking, because he could. What about you- can you do something unexpected for someone today?

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Written by Traci Shafer Bild

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7 replies on “How a Few Coins, a Random Act of Kindness, and a Christmas Tree Changed My Life

  • Brittany

    HI Tracy, This is Jug’s oldest grandkid, Brittany. Thank you so much for posting this amazing story! We miss him everyday. My husband and I gave our daughter the middle name Jay after Jug and Jerri (I just wanted it to be the letter “J” but we agreed on spelling it out as Jay so it wouldn’t be too confusing for the little one). I will be reading her this entry when she gets older so she knows how important her name is. Thank you so much for this.

    Brittany (Doupnik) Cross

    • Traci Bild

      Hi Brittany! I am so sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I just saw this blog when I logged into see comments. You were so darn fortunate- I would have loved to have Jug and Jerri in my family in any capacity! So glad you and your family enjoyed the memory and blog. Was something my brother Todd and I will never, ever forget- especially as Christmas time approaches.

  • Toni Gordley

    Shortly after my first husband died, I moved across the street from Jug and Jerri. They hired me part time at the DQ and it was the best thing for me at that time. They were great people to work for.

    • Traci Bild

      Hi Toni! I just actually saw this blog and so sorry I didn’t respond sooner! You were luck to work with them. So sorry about your husband.

  • Deb (Woodruff) Doupnik

    You are a beautiful person, inside and out and I know Dad saw the hearts of two kids that day, not their circumstances. What a treasure you have given us to see that you are “passing that kinds on” through your work! Hugs and more hugs and MORE HUGS! 🙂
    Deb (Woodruff) Doupnik


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