I was an Angel Tree Kid
I am not sure what people envision when they pull a name off of the tree at Christmas, choosing a child to be gifted by your generosity. (That tree that usually stands near the checkout line of your grocery store or is in your church. )
Do you assume certain family situations. Races ? PoliticS? Welfare? And what happens to those kids?
I can't speak for all of those little angels. But I can speak for one. For a period of time I was an Angel Tree kid
Now to start I don't know if it was the official angel tree program. I am certain it was through our church. And someone shopped for gifts for me. Just like most programs.
A little history: we were never on welfare. My parents were divorced. We actually lived quite well for a while on a small horse farm. But as time went on, things progressively changed. By my 8th grade year we were struggling. My mom during this time worked a minimum of 2 jobs. I had 2 sisters, one was moved out/ to college(paying for herself) and working. We lived in a nice town. Were involved in sports, 4-h, horseback riding and worked. And maintained good grades.
So why Angel tree? Well one job my mom had was Walmart. And another ad a Cna. Not well paying jobs. And to be honest, in retrospect my mom was not making the best financial decision s. she never touched a drug in her life. But I can see now that her brain tumors were affecting her back then.
From what I am aware of we were on church support programs from that time on. I remember getting Thanksgiving baskets too. I think my mom let us know about where the gifts and food came from from the beginning.
There are a few pictures and emotions that I connect with significantly. Good bad indifferent. SometimesI was grateful sometimes I was not. I'm just being honest.
I remember one year receiving a Walkman or cd playerI had asked for. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I don't remember a single other gift I got that year. But this was what I wanted and I could listen to my music in privacy without criticism about choice or volume. It created a little world for me. ( this year i knew these gifts were from the program) and someone out there in the bigger world thought of me. My wants and hopes.
After some recent discussion about used Angel tree gifts on Michelle's blog, I think about a gift situation with a "used" gift-not from Angel Tree. I remember opening a gift in 8th grade from probably "Santa" that was clearly a well used puzzle. MY puzzle. Yes, one i already owned and had put together. I was confused and disappointed. This was out of the ordinary. I wondered about my mom seriously. Not sure if it was her illness or we were that broke. But I wonder how embarrassing that was for her when I was clearly not excited about it. I wonder if parents feel that way when their kids get well loved gifts from strangers.
As a recipient, I remember getting clothing that I loved and shirts that I did not. To get the gift receipt and exchange it for something I liked, just like any other Christmas present, helped me feel more normal and more myself ( since I already wasn't cool in hs) and that is an empowering gift.
I asked my sister her thoughts looking back on it. The thing that stood out to her is that it helped her know that God didn't forget about us. Is there really anything else more important than that?
(FYI she now is a Big Brother/Big Sister in her area and donates toys to needy kids every year)
And now, that Angel Tree Kid, me, some 15-20 years later. Has a family. A masters degree. Helps people for a living. Lives comfortably. Is happy and extremely aware of how blessed she is. I look forward to sponsoring a few families through Catholic Charities, the main organizer of this program in our area. We have sponsored 2 families , 5 kids total. I take their list with me to the Day after Thanksgiving shopping to get good deals on a few things they want. I don't buy everything. I am not wealthy. But make sure some of their requests are filled as closely as possible. I even throw in something for the parent if there is any info. Like some pampering stuff or a gift card to a grocery store.
And I do it out of a mix of emotions and reasons. Gratitude. Guilt. Fun. Excitement. Obligation. Charity. Self-fulfillment. Selfishness. Obedience. Empathy.
I look forward to involving my toddler more in the future. To see a world of real struggling people out side of our own who need him. Showing people that God hasn't forgotten about them. If for nothing more than a coat or a toy. It doesn't take much.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it matters. It matters to that kid, parent, family in the moment, and in years to come.
So when you are considering what to do, in these tough economic times, to shop for a child you will never meet, when you see the tree...
I truly hope you consider choosing a name off that tree