Lines of shopping carts, rows of toys, 100+ volunteers, Marines, 700+ families and lots of tears. Today was day 5 of Christmas Distribution for Hampton Roads families at the Salvation Army Tidewater Command. For four hours, 2 of my favorite girl friends and over 100 others, were pushing shopping carts with a mom, dad or grandparent so that their kids would have a few items under the tree for Christmas morning. In orientation, they explained the process and how we would help them shop for their children’s gifts. Our big fear was that we would cry… in front of everyone.
It was so wonderful to see the Marines coming up while the parents were “shopping” and ask us “Whatcha got?” We would tell them what ages of kids we had and they would run off and come back with a handful of items and toss it in our shopping cart. You started to look for them every time you came around with a new person because you loved to see the look on their face when they came back with 2 toys and more toys had magically appeared. Then the angel tree items were given to them and yet again they were amazed. But I think what many of us hoped for was to get to the “check out” and to be the ones that were asked to wait by the exit door. That meant something great was going to happen…they were going to get a bike to take home to their child. And we would cry.
My girlfriends thanked me several times for inviting them to this and I am so glad I could share the experience with them. It takes a lot of courage for these families to ask for help so that they can see their kids smile on Christmas morning. I recall a Christmas Eve not so long ago, I was shopping for my daughters and really had very little money to buy them gifts. I was rushed for time since the stores closed early and I must have looked crazy, since I was crying the entire time I was shopping. I was upset that I couldn’t buy them things I thought they wanted and it would be the worst Christmas ever. I was buckling under the pressure of making sure they had enough presents to unwrap. My girls were all smiles Christmas morning unwrapping gifts because they had some. I hope the families we helped today will see their children smiling on Christmas morning. The memory of my Christmas Eve cry-a-thon is still painful for me as if it were yesterday, but I am so blessed and grateful for my experience. There will be a few more smiling faces on Christmas morning…thank you Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and volunteers.