Last year I shared the thank you letter that came from “Santa” at a local children’s shelter. I just received this year’s letter & have decided that I’ll share these annually, because I think they are that important. Before Christmas I saw someone post about the “true meaning of Christmas”. That’s a personal definition, but to me, the true meaning of Christmas is love. I’m lucky because I can share my love with children I don’t know, children who need love. With that, please read the lovely words sent to me from Santa Pat.
“2012 was a holiday for the books. Never has so much kindness come forward for the children of Crittenton Services. The brokenness of our boys and girls reached a place that left Santa sleepless this year. The children’s profiles spoke of a level of violence that we have never seen before. Trauma and loss, murder, illness, and abandonment left kids without homes and without hope. That is where you came in.
Every year, I give you our hard wishes and our weird ones. This year was no exception. Cydnei’s social worker called me to let you know what a huge hit her shoes were. Because Cydnei is a big girl, she is made fun of at school. She can’t find things to wear (or afford) because of her size. Her special shoes from you were a HUGE hit. She finally has something “cool” to wear just like the other teens. Your gifts for little Sydney and brother Walter were amazing. He loved his new shoes and scooter. As you could tell from their profile, this was a family who would have had nothing for Christmas for their kids. You brought such joy.
It was truly magical on Christmas morning in our group homes as the first child in each housing unit awoke everyone else, screaming to find several gifts under the tree just for them. Many of our kids do not believe they are really going to receive anything until they see it with their own eyes. They are afraid to ask in fear of disappointment. Many of our refugee kids received their first Christmas present ever, even though they are teenagers. The experience at Crittenton on Christmas morning is like controlled chaos as our kids unwrap their gifts, shrieking with delight. New clothing is modeled, toys are played with, and plans are put in place for gift card shopping. It is really something to watch. You made that happen with the kindness from so many of you.
Recently, I was touched by a story of a woman who had a stroke, Unable to speak, she desperately screamed from within to each person who came to her bedside. That voice kept screaming, “I’m in here. Come find me”. As soon as I heard that story, I thought of our kids. That is what they are saying to us. Please. Come find me. Here in my little space in the apartment shared by 12 others. Here in the group home where I just was placed days before Christmas. Here in my mistakes and my shame. Here in my poverty. I am here in my mental illness or my struggling addiction. But I am not my mistakes. I am not my parents’ bad decisions. Come find me. I am just like you. I want to be somebody. I want to matter to someone.
You did find them with your kindness and your generosity. Just fewer than 700 children were provided for this holiday- a new record. You found them separated hundreds of miles from the only family they know. You found them being raised by an aunt or a grandparent or a stranger. You found the unborn babies, the teenage moms, the human trafficking victims. Boy and girl and of every ethnicity and cultural background, you accepted and cared for them. You helped the child bullied for being gay or shamed because his parent is in prison or her mom is mentally ill and acts strangely. You brought clothing and toys and necessities. You shopped during the busiest time of the year with money that is hard to come by. You did it for those you do not know. You did not judge them and you met them where they are in their recovery. You needed only their size and their wish.
One child wanted to say thank you to his donor. “I don’t have to share my jeans with my brother anymore. I was embarrassed, but you even got me new underwear. I needed them.” An elf connected with a young mother Christmas Eve to give your gifts to her three children. She arrived with two black eyes, having just been beaten by her partner. With your gifts in her car, she went to the ER to treat her concussion. Christmas morning found her and her children opening the multitude of packages that came, emotion overwhelming all of them because of you. Another client was contacted to arrange a second delivery as straggler gifts came in. When she took the call, she burst into tears, saying how she had no way of giving her kids even a single gift and she was so thankful. I received a thank you from a mom and her 12 year old daughter, who had both been trafficked together and were homeless on the streets last year at Christmas. She wrote, “I sit here in awe of this unexpected kindness and cannot say anything but thank you. Today is a day I will never forget because of you.”
More than a few of our children had been teased because of their ill fitting second hand clothing. Kids could hardly wait for school break to be over to show off their new clothing. When our social workers delivered gifts to our home based clients, they entered homes not just devoid of a tree or decoration, but without food. Both children and parents cried. Our staff, who can feel pretty powerless sometimes, felt thrilled to be able to bring your awesome gifts to clients so poor.
It is when you stand back and observe the thousands of people … literally, thousands of people who came together to bring happiness to these children, that you feel a beautiful sense of hopefulness about our world. At Santa’s warehouse space, crammed with gifts as far as you could see, it was overwhelming. It was like looking into a brilliant light of human kindness. However, it is not about thousands of gifts. It is about the individual gift. Each child. Person to person caring.
This is all about love. You absolutely showed your child a kindness and a side of life they do not often see. That is your greatest gift. All of us at Crittenton, the staff and volunteers, the parents, and most importantly the children, thank you for hearing them and letting them know that they matter. You found them. You are a blessing.”