More than 20 years ago, at the office where I once worked, a co-worker and I started a tradition. As we worked 2nd shift, most everyone went out to dinner every night. So on one night in December, we asked everyone to bring a potluck dish and donate what they would have spent on dinner out. With the money raised, we bought gifts for a needy family that we found through the Department of Social Services. By the second year, we raised enough to sponsor two families. This year, we had more than $1,000 to spend.
I left that job nearly 15 years ago, but the tradition continues. My co-worker (and friend) is still there and is still coordinating. We contact the families and ask about specific needs before shopping. We deliver the gifts without children seeing so that the parent can give them the gifts as if they are from them.
The mother of one family said her 9-year-old daughter needed bras and underwear. Not having the slightest idea how to buy such things for a 9-year-old, we picked up mom and daughter and drove them to the mall so the girl could get fitted and find something she liked. As we pulled in to the parking lot, the child said "Is this a mall?" Um, yes, sweetie. "I've never been to a mall." She lived three miles away. We gave them $100 and told them to get what they needed. It took some prodding, but they finally went on their way. When we met up with them later, the mom looked at us with tears in her eyes and said "Being able to shop with my daughter is the only Christmas present I need."
Family #2 is a grandmother raising 7 grandchildren. When speaking with her, she mentioned that two children go to a charter school that requires a uniform. They have one each. A woman who was with us commented that she must do a lot of laundry. There was a pause. "We do a lot of hand laundry." She doesn't have a washing machine.
Today, we wrapped gifts for 13 children and 2 women. Piles and piles of gifts for children who know little of the world that exists beyond the poverty in which they live.
My Christmas is complete.