i’ve been christmas shopping the last few days. not for friends and family. each year my friend shops for several families in need. she collects money from country music stars who “adopt” a family. a few years ago, i joined her. after we get the money, we go out and shop for the families. we are emailed a list of everyone and i usually choose 7-10 families to shop for. it requires several nights of shopping and then wrapping the hundreds of gifts. most families average 5 in the household. i know their names. their ages. their clothing sizes. and their story, or at least a brief version. some live in a safehouse. some lost everything in a fire. some lost a job and cannot afford presents for their children, let alone pay their bills. this year there are 2 women over 80 living alone with little money. they ask for simple things. a 6″ skillet. a blanket.
each person lists their NEEDS and their WISHES. most of the parents have one wish: their children to have a christmas. some kids wish for a barbie doll. some have aspirations of being an artist and wish for paints. some small children wish for anything “science or biology” related. and some just wish for toys. no description. just toys.
and then there are those who have one wish: clothes.
a lot of people go out, buy the items and put them in a large black yard bag to be delivered to the children. every year i do the same. i read the families story. and then i look at their age and clothing sizes. i picture the family in my head. i see “ciara” and i see her smiling. i see her crying. and i can hear her laugh. i walk the aisles and try to keep the image of her in my head. i wonder if the backpack is the right color for her. i hope she likes the pink sweater that i think is perfect for her. i hope she likes the little mermaid underwear. and those spongebob legos.
i’ll never meet her. i’ll never meet the families. unless, by chance, out in the world. i prefer it that way. i prefer the picture i paint of them. and as i wrap each gift and label the tag to them from santa, i imagine them opening the gift and smiling. and i briefly regret the many christmases i had enough presents under the tree for fifty children.
and more than anything i wish them peace. i hope their hearts and bodies are warm on that cold christmas day. and i hope their dreams don’t die.