In our November issue of StreetLights, we printed a story about a mother who came to sign up her five children for Christmas toys. Here is the backstory.
So, I asked her for all of the paperwork, her picture ID, original social security cards of the children and birth certificates of the children. She reached into her bag and pulled out a stack of papers and put them on the counter. “How many children?” I asked. “Five,” she replied with a broad smile on her face. I noticed she was pregnant and I thought to myself, “Oh boy, she has five already and now here comes the sixth.” So, I went through all of the children’s information making sure her name was on all the birth certificates and none of her children were over fourteen years old. If they were, then I would take them out of the pack because we stop giving gifts if the child is over 14, her oldest was 13.
“Ok,” I said, “And we are going to get Christmas gifts for your unborn child. Do you have a name picked out that you would like us to use?” She just looked at me and quietly said, “I’m having triplets.” “Three!” I shouted. You could hear me all over the LittleStore. She broke into laughter. She couldn’t even talk to me, she was laughing so hard. “That’s eight!” I stammered!
So, now I was the one in shock and she was the one giggling. In my mind, I kept hearing,“That’s eight.” I put the number 8 on her registration slip and led her into the entry area.
Fast-forward eight weeks and we are very happy to report that mother and babies are doing well. She had three boys so now the family has four girls and four boys. As some of you may already know, we started a GoFundMe entitled “How is this family going to survive?” and we raised $3040 for the family.
We have a rule for picking up Christmas gifts. The person who signs up is the only person to whom we will actually hand the gifts. This rule came about in the very early days of the Christmas Giving Program. Someone would come to pick up gifts and tell us her sister was sick and could not go out so she sent her to pick them up. We would give her the gifts only to have the original person show up and ask for her gifts with the same number. We would say, “But your sister picked up the gifts for you because you were sick.” And they would tell us they didn’t have a sister. And so the rule!
Because of that rule, over the years we have had to deliver the gifts to hospitals, apartments and houses. So, when the gifts were ready for the family of eight, we called the mother and found out that she was still in the hospital and she had delivered three healthy baby boys. Kathy and I loaded my car up with the eight bags of toys and set out for the hospital. When we got there, we used the valet parking for the car and I asked the parking attendant for a
couple of wheelchairs. When he brought them over to the car, he got really confused. He thought we had two passengers who needed the chairs and here I was stacking bag upon bag of Christmas gifts on them. The bags were piled so high that neither Kathy nor I could see over the top of them. Then we needed to register so we pushed the loaded wheelchairs over to the security station and asked the guard to keep an eye on them. He wasn’t smiling!
After we registered, we made our way to Elevator B and up we went to the 3rd floor where the maternity ward is located. We pushed the wheelchairs off the elevator and stopped at the window at the nurse’s station to find out where the room was located. When the attendant looked up and saw the wheelchairs piled high with trash bags, she just stared at Kathy and I. After about 30 seconds she asked, “How can I help you?” while her eyes never left the pile of toys. I told her the room number and she told us she would need to get permission for us to visit. Kathy and I just stood there as she frantically dialed one number after another until she finally found someone to talk to. After a minute or two she opened the service window and said, “I will need to get a supervisor’s permission to let you in,” and the service window closed. We waited for another minute or two. We could see her talking on the phone gesturing with her hand just how high the pile of gifts were. Finally, the service window opened again and she told us that a supervisor would meet us at the end of the hallway to our left and her parting comment was, “I don’t know if all those bags will fit in her room.” We thanked her and headed down the hallway. When we reached the end of the hallway, there was no one there. So, we waited for a minute and then I spied the room number we were looking for. It was just two doors down from where we were standing. So, we decided to just go on in. Kathy knocked on the door and we heard a voice saying, “Come on in.” We slipped into the room leaving the two wheelchairs in the corridor.
Kathy went in first and I could hear a voice say,” Hello,” and Kathy answering, “Hi, I am Kathy Doyle and we are here with your Christmas gifts.” I came behind Kathy and as I looked around the room I thought to myself that the nurse was right – the room was really small! I also noticed a bassinet and a very little baby in it. Kathy explained to the mother what we were doing and the gifts were outside her room. The mother told us that would be ok because her sister was coming and would take the gifts home for her. She then asked Kathy if she would like to hold baby A. Kathy quickly answered, “Yes, I would love to!” and picked up the small bundle and cradled it in her arms. I went over and saw a child sound asleep with his tiny hands and fingers showing outside his blanket. What an amazing sight! Then a nurse came in and told the mother that baby B would be coming down later in the evening, but baby C had to stay in the NICU until his body weight was more than 4 lbs. The mother just smiled and said ok. We then told the mother that we had conducted a GoFundMe for her family and that we would be by sometime at the end of January with a check for whatever we collected. Then we said our goodbye and left.
On January 26, 2024 Kathy and I went to visit the family for a couple of reasons. One was to check on how the mother and the boys were doing and the other reason was to give her a check for $3,040 dollars we had collected in the Christmas GoFundMe appeal
We pulled up to the house and we couldn’t help noticing that the three-family was in pretty poor condition. It was very unsettling. We entered the front door and immediately bumped into a wheelchair. We had to scoot by it to head upstairs because we knew the family lived on the second floor. As we proceeded up the stairs, we had to step over a number of items left on the stairs, pass by three bags of trash and then we go to the second-floor landing where we found a bunch of miscellaneous household items in front of the door. Needless to say, we were very concerned about a family with newborn babies living with these conditions.
I knocked on the door. No answer, not even a sound coming from the apartment. I knocked again, still no answer. I asked Kathy to check the address. “Yes,” she replied, “This is the correct address. So, I knocked once more, still no sound coming from the apartment. Then, Kathy decided to call the family to verify the address. I heard Kathy saying, “Oh, we are at the wrong house, it is next door.”
So down the stairs we went being careful not to trip over the trash bags and any of the household items left on the stairs. We made our way to the next three-decker. This one was in much better condition and when we opened the front door, we were very pleasantly surprised at the condition of the well-lit front stairway. We made our way to the second floor and I knocked on the door. The door opened slowly, and we saw the three little ones in their respective bouncy chairs, all sound asleep. The mother asked us in and immediately turned to Kathy and asked, “Would you like to hold one?” With a very broad smile and her eyes open wide, Kathy, replied, Yes.” The mother reached down and picked up one of the triplets and gently placed him in Kathy’s arms.
While Kathy and the mother had a conversation concerning how the babies were doing, I had a chance to look around the room we were in as well as down a long hallway which led to the kitchen. “This is a clean house,” I thought. The room we were in was the front room. It had a large screen TV and chairs for watching TV. It was very clean and there was nothing out of place. I thought, “This is a well taken care of home.”
When the mother and Kathy finished their conversation concerning the babies, Kathy took out the envelope, which contained a notecard and the check for $3040. I watched the mother. She was smiling as she opened the envelope. Kathy asked her, “Do you know what a GoFundMe is? She replied, “No, what is it?” She then opened the envelope, looked at the check and started to cry. At that very moment, I thought, “This is our Christmas moment for Christmas 2023!”
We would ask that you keep this family in your prayers and if you are so moved from time to time and want to send along a donation for this family, we will make sure it gets delivered. There is more!
On the very last day, December 24, 2023, in the last half hour, 11:30 A.M. I had two instances that pushed me over the edge. At 11:35 A.M. there was a knock on the door. When I opened the door, there was a young mother standing there and she pointed to the LittleStore entrance and said in somewhat of a panicky voice, “Where are they?” I looked at her and I could see the panic in her eyes. “The store is closed on December 24th.” “It can’t be,” she replied, I need to get my receipt reprinted because I lost it.” I looked at her and shrugged and said,“I’m sorry.” She stood there for another minute or two just staring at the closed doors. Then she got into her car and drove away.
At 11:55 A.M. (five minutes before I close up and go home to my Christmas), there was a knock on the door. I opened it and there was a woman standing there. I could see she was in a very panicky state. “Can I still sign up for toys?” she asked. “No,” I said and shut the door. I looked at my watch, it was 11:58 A.M. “Two minutes to go,” I said to myself. And at exactly 12:00 P.M. I set the alarm in the shed, opened the door and looked around. The parking lot was completely empty except for me and my car. I got into my car and headed home to celebrate Christmas with my family.
It wasn’t until December 27th that I recalled the happenings on December 24th. And a little voice whispered to me, “You could have done better. You could have helped those two families out.” Unfortunately for me the little voice was right. I had the time and tools available to me to solve their problems, but I didn’t. As I thought about the situation all sorts of excuses came to my mind. Boy, do I hate those little voices!!