When I was in college, one of our childhood development classes required us to work with a local head start program volunteering and doing research. I volunteered with a wonderful program full of people who truly loved each and every one of those kids. The parents would attend on site literacy and job training courses while their children attended Head Start and were taught basic pre-k and social skills. It was a great environment.
One day, I arrived to find all of the kids on the playground except for two, who had to remain inside because they didn’t have shoes to wear and the playground had small pebbles as ground cover. Can you believe this still happens today? It took less than twenty five dollars to get shoes for each of those kids and they were thrilled with the ones I had picked up at Kmart (I was on a college student’s budget!). Then I got to thinking of what else I could do. The workers there did so much and gave so much of their own time and resources already that it was difficult to do much more.
Fortunately, with a few phone calls, it’s easy to find others who can. I contacted the local Fraternal Order of Police, Winn Dixie Grocery Store, and the Marines from Toys For Tots. In the course of one week, we threw together one jim dandy of a Christmas party. The FOP provided coats for the children and funds for decorations and favors, the grocery store provided juice and cookies, and the Marines – they provided tear stained faces for every person present that day.
My children and myself have always taken toys for granted. I hope you and yours have as well. Every Christmas morning, you have toys waiting under the tree. Every birthday, there will be a “gift table” for the honoree – its how life works, right?
Not for these kids. I saw something that day that will forever affect me. I saw three and four year olds, screaming and crying, tears rolling down their faces, because they were so overcome with receiving a toy. The chief of police had tears streaking down his face and don’t you think for one minute that those tough Marines were in any way unaffected. There were some damp uniforms all around that day.
It’s difficult to even write about it now, to try to describe a room full of children screaming and crying as they clutch a toy to them “I Got a doll!!!! It’s a doll!!!! It’s a baby doll!!!”. Holding it as if someone had just given them the world.
Truth is, they had. They had been given hope. I will NEVER forget that day when those children’s lives were changed by something which to us is so simple.
Yesterday, I had a list of things I still wanted to purchase for Christmas. Little additional gifts here and there, things I thought I needed. As I was flipping channels, I came across a report on Toys For Tots and of course, I had to stop. A Marine began talking about how short they were on toy donations this year as the camera panned to empty bins. The reporter asked “What’s it gonna mean to the U.S. Marine Corps if they can’t give every child who needs a toy a toy?”
Master Sergeant Timothy Butler: “Well, to be honest, it’s gonna break my heart. “
And mine too.
Please help. Skip Starbucks today, eat supper in, don’t order that pizza or buy that pair of gloves for someone who truly doesn’t need them anyway. Get a smaller ham or turkey, there is always a way to give just a little. Time is running out. I read somewhere that this is the last week they can take donations and they are tens of thousands of toys behind.
When I saw that Christmas video yesterday, my shopping stopped. I went to www.toysfortots.org and donated instead. I know it will be put to a much better use than what I would have done with it.
If you donate this week, come back here and leave a comment to let us know. Lets get each other revved up and encouraged to help those so much less fortunate than we are. THIS is what Christmas is all about.