Giving Trees

Every year as a kid, we took names from the Salvation Army tree at the mall. My sisters and I would try to pick girls who were the same ages as we were so we could get them something we thought was so COOL. We kept this up for a long time, and as each of us moved onward and upward, we’ve kept this tradition alive.

I remember one year when I was in college, my mom and I went Christmas shopping and she brought along a tag from a tree. We were shopping for an eighteen month old girl, and on her wishlist was a pair of shoes. We figured her mother had written this, meaning the shoes were more of a need than a want. That put an ache in our hearts. We found some shoes in her size, and got a couple more in the next size up, since little feet grow so fast. Then we figured, you can’t have shoes without socks. So we went and found pretty little girl socks, some pink, some lavender, some with the frilly trim. And for goodness sake, you can’t have socks without a Winnie the Pooh bear? Honestly! We pictured this little girl and her family open these gifts on Christmas day, and hoped that this warmed their hearts and made their Christmas Day.

Fast forward about ten years–I’m with my son on my way to my mom’s group at church, and we see my friend carrying boxes down to our meeting room. Jacob helps her carry them down, and sees that the boxes are covered with trees, santas, snowflakes, and knows it’s for Christmas. In the room on a big table were pencils, crayons, toys, socks, soap, toothbrushes, and other goodies ready to be packed into boxes. Jacob wanted to know if this was stuff for him and the other kids. It wasn’t–we were packing up boxes to be sent to kids who needed more Christmas than their means could give them. Here’s the conversation I had with him.

Sara: We are giving these things to kids who don’t get a lot for Christmas
Jacob: Why don’t they get a lot? Is it because they were naughty?
Sara: No, sometimes people don’t have enough money to pay for presents, so they don’t get any.
Jacob: You mean, they can be good and still get nothing? That isn’t fair.
Sara: No it isn’t, honey.
Jacob: Were their mommies and daddies naughty?
Sara: No, it isn’t about being naughty or nice. Sometimes people just have it hard and don’t get a lot. Sometimes it’s hard for them to even buy food and clothes, so that’s why we like to help out if we can.
Jacob: So this is a nice thing we’re doing. I’m sad that they don’t get presents.

The look on my son’s face about brought me to tears. Here is a little boy who has everything he needs and much of what he wants. We are far from wealthy, and have lived through very lean times, but never so bad as to require help. Every Christmas he’s known has had presents. Some years more than others. And this is a kid who has always know where his next meal is coming from. This was his first time understanding that some kids who are just like him don’t have it easy. And it isn’t by their doing, and in many cases, their parents’ doing. I think this experience for him will drive home what we are doing when we pull a name off a tree this year, and get a gift for a five year old boy. And I’m sure if Jacob has his way (which he will), he will pick out something COOL!!!

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