I donate to a shelter for children and families called Crittenton. They have a wonderful program at Christmas time called “Angel Tree”, where they have a list of children and what that child needs or wants for Christmas. These children may live at the Crittenton home due to abuse, neglect, or many other reasons. As a donor, you get the name of the child and what they need, wrap it, and give it to Crittenton who, in turn, delivers it to the child.
This, to me, is what Christmas is about. Giving to someone who needs it. Someone who can use it. Someone who truly appreciates it and what it means.
The thank you letter came from “Santa”, and it moved me so much that I felt I wanted to share it with you. I know it’s long, but it’s really worth it to read the whole thing. And, if you have kids you may want to have them read it because it truly is about the spirit of Christmas.
“First, let me thank you for the array of wonderful gifts for the children of Crittenton. The “Ald” and “Van” families are two of our neediest families in crisis. The social worker told me they literally cried when they received their gifts. It really is beyond words. They will always remember this holiday. Every gift was received with excitement and great appreciation of your generosity. Our children experienced pure joy as Christmas morning was greeted not only with incredible gifts, but with the knowledge that someone cares. There is no price on that gift. About 350 boys and girls learned about the kindness of strangers this holiday. Desperately poor kids living in shelters or in the projects, group home children, foster children, and refugee children experienced love on Christmas morning. My thank you letter is a little different this year, both in form and content. Here is what this veteran Santa learned this year. It will help you understand the impact of your generosity and kindness:
There are long waiting lists for homeless shelters but a cheap hotel room is better than a car when you have three kids under 5.
It is better to be in that hotel room alone than to be with a partner that abuses you and your children.
A family of 6 can have two towels.
You can learn to be comfortable sleeping on the floor if you don’t know when the shooting will start.
Even after you come to a safe Crittenton group home, you still want to sleep on the floor.
Children that are left alone in a crib become children who cannot walk at the age of 22 months and are desperate to have physical contact with strangers.
Human trafficking is alive and well all around us. Children are bought and sold like bags of groceries.
You can travel without any adult as a child from several countries away by strapping yourself to train cars and walking for miles if you are going to a better place.
Even when you finally have all the food you need, you continue to hoard food at the group home because you never know…
When you are persecuted for your faith in China, you can find bibles online in America printed in Chinese.
Roach spray and toilet paper hits Santa’s Christmas wish lists three years in a row.
Drug addiction kills mothers.
Some neighborhoods are so dangerous that elves have to deliver Christmas gifts at 4 or 5 a.m. so it is safe to get them in and get out.
Grandmothers can save the world, or at least the children. They can work in shifts to cover 6 kids (including two in diapers) living in a 2 bedroom apartment.
Kids long to visit their parent in prison. They miss them terribly.
Our social workers identify 99% of their clients in the highest level of need.
Poverty is not what takes a child’s spirit. It is when a parent does not care about them.
Kids are resilient but are damaged beyond understanding. Their parents have been damaged the same way.
And on it goes…
Sometimes you can be a teenager and receive your first new pair of shoes.
The toughest, most difficult kids are the most fragile and hold the most pain.
You can be 17 and have never celebrated Christmas with a gift, a tree, or a stocking.
You can find yourself in a safe place and be desperately missing the people who hurt you.
Sometimes it is important to have your own towel.
You have to plan what to ask Santa for at the holidays, such as gifts that can be stuffed into backpacks and moved at a moment’s notice.
Many kids cannot have outside toys because it is too dangerous to be beyond their own doorstep. This is the reality they must learn of their world to just stay alive.
Sometimes when Santa needs clarity on a size and is frustrated by the lack of immediate response, the social worker is visiting that child in the hospital because he was jumped by a gang.
It can be hard to explain to a young child why Santa did not come to their home before now.
Here is what else Santa learned:
Total strangers who are struggling with their own situations and finances care about children they do not know. They have to wait until payday to be able to afford shoes for a child.
These strangers have so many people in their family who have lost jobs; they don’t do Christmas gifts the same way. Now they pick a charity and help someone worse off than they are.
People will take on wishes of teenagers even though they would rather buy a Barbie.
People will hunt down whatever a “Phineas and Ferb” toy is, and even find one on sale.
People will call back three times to find out exactly what color and type of tennis shoes a child wants. They will buy that kid socks and a toy as well, which were not on his list.
Sometimes a box with an angel card that reads “toothpaste and deodorant” is so heavy you have to lift it from the bottom.
People who hate to order online will do so because it is the only place where you can find that toy.
Children of donors use their allowance to buy for other children.
Torrential rain and wind does not keep donors from shopping or elves from moving thousands of gifts.
Neither does flooding, getting lost, or bad backs.
When you are a teenager coming into placement the day after Christmas, you will still find a huge bag of individualized gifts for you, all wrapped and ready.
For the 22 new children who came into care within the final days of Christmas, the “extra” gift cards and financial donations made their holiday possible.
Strangers will spend hours making handmade blankets and Christmas stockings.
There is nothing a donor or Crittenton elf will not do to try and make a child happy.
It has been an amazing holiday season. All of us at Crittenton thank you so much for all you have done to bring happiness into the world of our children. Your gift is much bigger than you realize. From the staff to every last child, we wish you heartfelt thanks and a wonderful new year. You are a blessing to us.”