This is a story that happened while I was doing Christmas entry. I had a mother of three quietly approach me about signing up her children. When she spoke to me, I looked up from the keyboard as I opened the entry screen. She was well-dressed and I immediately began to wonder if she understood our program. So I asked her, “Do you receive food stamps?” “No,” she replied as she shook her head no. “Do you work?” I asked. “I am unemployed.” she said, “For the first time in my life.” I saw it in her eyes, that fear of the unknown. “How many weeks do you have left?” I asked. “Four,” she replied and her eyes became wet as she tried to hide them with her hand. “That’s tough,” I replied, “But if you can show me how much you are receiving for unemployment I will see if you qualify for our program.” Once again, I saw the fear pass in her eyes. I reviewed her unemployment check amount, it was a little over $400 per week. “You’re OK,” I said, we can put you into the system and hopefully we can get you some toys. A small smile came across her face and I noticed that she relaxed a little as if I had somehow removed a terrible weight from her, but the fear in her eyes was still there.
As I was entering the information for each of her children, you know, first name, social security number, year of birth, gender, and which toys for each child, I noticed an older couple pass behind her and I recognised them as members from a local church that donates clothing and bottles and cans on a regular basis. The lady motioned to me to get my attention. I thought I could finish up the entry for the mother, but the lady kept waving a little more frantically, so I excused myself from the mother and moved about six feet away from where I was doing the entry. The couple leaned forward as if to tell me a secret that they didn’t want anyone else to hear. “Excuse us,” she said, “but I want to write you a check for the Christmas Program. Can you take a check?” “Of course,” I quickly replied, “We take money any way we can!” We all laughed. She took out her checkbook and proceeded to write a check for $500. She quickly folded it in half and slid it across the counter to me saying “This is for toys for the children you are trying to help.” “Thank you,” I said and I just happened to glance at the mother I was doing an entry for and she was just standing there, her eyes opened as wide as can be!
I had a thought. So I said to the couple who just made the donation, “I would like you to meet someone who will benefit from your tremendous generosity. Would that be Ok? They both shook their head yes although I did sense some trepidation. I turned to the mother and said, “I would like you to meet some of the people who are very willing to support your family during this great time of trial.” The mother visibly shaken said, “I was listening to your conversation and I want to tell you just how happy you have made me.” There were tears running down her cheeks, the fear in her eyes was gone, replaced by sparkly eyes. The couple was standing there visibly touched by her words and I noticed tears welling up in their eyes as they quickly rubbed them to prevent a deeper feeling from rushing out. It was that very instant that I recognized what we have come to call “a Christmas Moment.” It is that point in time when we become aware that there is a Santa Claus and a newborn babe that will call us to love our neighbor all wrapped into one. We have one or two every year and I can tell you they never leave you. In fact, they leave you a changed person.
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes as the couple quietly left the store and I went back to entering the family information. When I finished and had printed off the paperwork for this mother so she could claim her gifts, I looked into her eyes one last time. There was no fear, she was at peace. “Thank you and all the people who are helping you,” she whispered, and quickly left the store.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.