Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why I Give at Christmas (and why you should too)

Christmas 2008 was a very special Christmas. It was also a very difficult Christmas.

It was my first Christmas as a single mother. I had separated from my first husband in March of that year and had spent the remainder of it trying to put the pieces of my life together. After watching my dreams of having a family and being a stay-at-home-mom shatter, I had worked hard to get a job and provide for my two small children. We lived with my parents then. It was actually the second time I move "back" in with them. I had moved out into my own apartment for a few months until my ex lost his job and stopped paying child support altogether. The majority of my income went to full-time childcare for my children, and any extra went to paying off debt I had carried with me from my failed marriage.

As the holidays approached and decorations went up, I wondered how and if I would be able to buy gifts for my kids. I knew they would receive presents from family, but I felt an intense sadness that I had nothing to give them that they would open from Mom. I had no idea I would receive a phone call that would change the course of my life.

Someone called and asked a simple question, "Are you going to be able to buy gifts for the boys for Christmas?" My emotions caught in the back of my throat and I struggled to get anything out of my mouth besides a simple, "No." He then asked, "Do you think you can make something happen with $100?" All I could get out was, "Yes."

I took that money to the store and carefully calculated every penny, including tax, on a calculator as I shopped, and bought as much as I could with that money. I spent every last dime of it, took the gifts home and wrapped them and very gratefully awaited Christmas morning.

The gifts were not extravagant, and they weren't many, but they were gifts nonetheless and provided me an opportunity to make very special memories with my children.  

Since that year, I have tried to make sure to involve my children in giving each year. I used to work for a large regional bank that held an annual toy drive; my favorite job was volunteering to collect money from my co-workers so that I could purchase gifts for the toy drive. I would take my littles with me and let them help me pick out presents for other children, explaining to them that there are lots of children who may not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning. They would joyfully and enthusiastically select gifts for boys and girls of different ages, and I am so thankful to have involved them in acts of giving from a young age.

Remember the movie Fred Claus? Of course, there is a lot that's silly about the movie, but there is a very moving moment when the elves question whether or not they'll be able to deliver everything on every child's Christmas list that year. Fred gives a little speech, pointing out that kids don't need lots of presents Christmas morning; they just need one. He and all the elves work tirelessly to ensure this happens. The result is moving.

If you can afford to buy even one present for your children this holiday season, count yourself among the privileged. Yes, we all know there is so much more about the season than commercialism and more stuff, but kids expect magic. They are mesmerized by every holiday film ever made that promises them that Santa will bring them their hearts desire, find families for orphans, return lost pets and reunite divorced parents. Kids shouldn't have to have their hearts broken by circumstance and parents shouldn't have to be put in the gut wrenching position to see their kids wake up Christmas morning and have to explain that Santa couldn't come this year. 

The thing is, magic does exist and it's in each one of us as members of the human race. We are here to look out for one another and to help our friends and neighbors who, due to circumstance, cannot do everything they wish they could for their families. 

Salvation Army of Tulsa and many other organizations that collect toys, clothes and food for needy families are running desperately low on donations this year. Although distribution has already begun, they still have many families in need of gifts for their families. If offices aren't open, contact someone through social media to find out how you can donate. Ask a friend, ask a pastor - I'm sure there is someone in your network who knows someone who isn't sure whether or not their family will experience the magic of Christmas this year. 

Happy Holidays, and lots of Honey,


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