Found My Y: True Spirit of the Season Shines in Community

Last updated: January 20, 2022, at 5:24 p.m. PT

Originally published: December 22, 2021, at 4:36 p.m. PT

Giving Tree 2021

By. David L. Humphrey Jr., Ph.D 

I love the holidays. I mean I loooove the holidays!  

There is nothing more edifying than watching my young sons bounce around the house, playing with new toys and reminding me of the joyful memories that come with this time of year. Usually nothing can shake me out of the holiday spirit during December. During this time with family, nothing beats drinking hot chocolate and enjoying a board game while holiday tunes serenade us, that special blend that comes together to accentuate the joyous environment all around us - I love it all. 

This year was no different, as I happily coasted through holiday preparations, but then December 16 happened. I remember feeling so rushed. I was engrossed in my work for the Y, shoring up strategic goal planning for equity and justice for the 2022 year and helping package bundles of carefully wrapped presents for families around the greater Seattle area. From toys for children to gift cards and selfcare items for caregivers, people from around the region has helped the Y raise funds and donate presents to the Y’s Giving Tree, and I was determined to help deliver them to families; but I had several meetings back-to-back and was worried that traffic would be a bear and prohibit me from making the rounds. I knew I needed to get gifts to the families that needed them most before it got too late in the evening, but the anxiety of being late or missing anyone grew inside me 

Found My Y Infographic

For a while that day, I had allowed my minor problems of traffic, meetings, and deadlines to distract me, to blind me to what this season is all about: gratitude, kindness, togetherness, giving. This all changed when I got to my destination and felt the warm, gracious smile of the mother from the family I was bringing gifts to, courtesy of the generous donations of the Seattle branch of law firm Schwabe, Williamson, and Wyatt.  

Immediately seeing this mother’s smile melted away all of my previous worries. The traffic, meetings and worry of not making it on time all vanished. The warmth she shared immediately wrapped my heart; in that moment I was reminded of the true meaning of the holidays. She invited me in and confided that the gifts could not have come at a better time. Her baby son, who had been born prematurely, had just been released from the hospital after suffering complications during birth.  

This family had gone through something I could never fully understand, but the levity that these gifts brought I could see as plain as day. Most days at the Y, I work behind the scenes to address community need and inequities, but what a gift to be allowed into someone’s home, a stranger to me, and be welcomed and surrounded by love. Seeing the efforts of the Y and our partners in this way firsthand, it warmed my heart and doubled my resolve. 

The Y's Giving Tree

Giving Tree is just one of the ways Y engages with our community. Through this program, Y staff, members, friends, and corporate and community partners embrace an opportunity to provide gifts and support to families during the holiday season. In my four short months with the YMCA of Greater SeattleY, I have been blown away by the generosity of our staff, community and business partners, and volunteers at our local branches. Through acts of kindness and selflessness, our community members have bridged the gaps exacerbated through inequality and financial hardship, and been a balm for many. This work, caring for our community, especially the most vulnerable and minoritized, happens 365 days a year, 24/7. 

As we enter into this season of gratitude, kindness, and giving, let’s remember that the work continues; that there is more work to do; and that the Y appreciates your support. Together we can continue the hard work of meeting the most critical needs in our community so that all people can thrive in spirit, mind, and body. 

Season’s Greetings, a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and please remember, it is never too late to join the Y movement in the Greater Seattle Area. Even if the holidays are ending, ways to help and the need continues year-round. You can help today by donating to the Y to support community programs all year. 

David L. Humphrey Jr., Ph.D. is a Senior Vice President and Equity and Justice Officer with the Y's Equity & Justice Center of Excellence. Learn more about his work.  

Found My Y is an occasional series of reported stories and personal essays from the people in and around the Y who weave the fabric of our communities. From sharing fun anecdotes of levity to the grand moments when we learn something bigger about ourselves, stories are our history and a gift. Have a story to share, or want to nominate someone for our next installment, e-mail us at with the subject line "Found My Y."