A few nights ago, we were sitting in the living room when a car pulled into our driveway unexpectedly. Seeing its lights, my instinct was to look around for a place to cower. Being part Grinch and full introvert, I never expect something good will come from an unexpected visit. If I’m honest, I always fight the worry that someone weird is going to come to the door and try to sell me something.

Soon, though, those feelings evaporated and were replaced with ones of pure affection. For it was then that the incredible Meg emerged from her car swinging a festive Christmas bag.

Since I’ve moved to Somerset, it feels like I’ve always known about Meg and her family. My husband’s sister was best friends with Meg’s sister, Brooke, in high school, and Brooke has been there for Leah through every hard chapter of life.

Hearing their stories, I knew Brooke and her sisters Meg and Elissa were the kind of people who take the time. When Leah went through breast cancer, Brooke was there, sitting in the surgery waiting room with the rest of the family. When William’s dad was in hospice, Meg, who worked on the ward, was there, tending to his every need. And when he passed away, there were both girls at visitation.

With Meg working at hospice and Brooke working for the American Cancer Society, I didn’t get the impression either were strangers to funerals. In fact, I imagined they showed up for a lot of people, lending a quiet presence you could lean on if you needed to.

Taking the time is not a concept that was necessarily engrained in me growing up. “Be honest and work hard” was my Ukrainian grandmother’s advice, which wasn’t bad, but didn’t necessarily promote service to others. Instead our approach, in general, is, “We’re here if you need us,” which is sincere and can be helpful but does rely on an initial request for help.

Not so when it comes to these sisters. Even Elissa, whom we know the least, has still managed to help us in essential ways.

Allow me to explain.

After we got our little dog Fitz, we quickly decided we wanted him to be able to stay home when we were away. Pretty directly, we were told that Meg is the gold standard when it comes to dog sitters, which we learned is 100 percent true.

After a long day of work, Meg will go to your house and stay at your house while you’re away. She checks the mail. She waters the plants. She keeps everything clean. She sends you pics of your pup playing in the yard. And, most importantly, she cuddles your dogs all night long if they want to.

Then, when you get home, she leaves you a note written in the tiniest, tidiest penmanship I’ve ever seen, along with some kind of fun treat. Maybe there will be a plate of cookies on the counter. Maybe there will be peanut butter and jelly cupcakes in the fridge.

Meg’s service was so popular that she needed help. Enter Elissa, who would pitch in when Meg would go on her annual mission trips to some of the remotest parts of Africa. Meg now works as a dental assistant and her trips consist of providing dental care for children in need.

If I sound like I’m describing a saint, I feel perfectly comfortable in telling you she is the closest I’ve ever come to meeting one in real life. In talking about her to mutual acquaintances, I’ve learned more stories about Meg. One is about the time she saw an older woman walking on the side of the road. Meg stopped to see if she needed anything and learned the woman was walking to the grocery store. Pretty soon, Meg had established a driving service for this woman and others who likewise needed a ride.

With the pandemic, we have only needed Meg’s help this year when I would take Fitz to his treatments at University of Tennessee and Tilly would be left alone. Sure enough, Meg came whenever we needed her, leaving work at lunch time to let Tilly out, rearranging her schedule when we would get delayed and Tilly would need to be fed dinner. Whether she came or not, a few times a month, every month, she would check in to see how Fitz was feeling.

So when she showed up in our driveway a few nights ago swinging a Christmas bag filled with gifts, I was surprised and then not surprised to see Meg. Because who, after all, embodies the spirit of giving more than this woman?

Knowing we are mostly social isolating, she left the bag on the front step and William waved to her as she drove away.

We decided to open the gift early. Inside was a variety of truly lovely things but most moving was a wooden Christmas ornament. It had the name “Fitzi” carved into it, which, honestly, made us both weep.

These women have taught me you can learn a lot about what kind of person you want to be by observing what other people are like. Certainly, I will never come close to being as good and kind as Meg. But when my instinct is to cower, it has made me wonder whether I should open my heart instead.

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