What I Did:
Every year at Christmas time, Sunset Presbyterian in Portland hosts an assist-a-family program. Key volunteers labor for months identifying families needing help, coordinating groceries that will be delivered to thousands, and finding community members willing to help children by making sure Santa doesn’t forget them.
This year, Assist-a-Family deliveries coincided with the last week of my 2012 experiment. Food, gifts, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday? I can’t think of a better culmination to my New Year’s resolution.
After Thanksgiving, a contact list was emailed giving me the names and ages of children for which our family was responsible. Even though buying a gift for the parent(s) isn’t mandatory, the gesture is always appreciated.
We’d be helping Santa choose gifts for 3 girls, ages 16, 14, and 7. I called their mother to ask about their Christmas lists and learned clothing sizes for what they really wanted – hoodies. I notified the mom of the time and date we’d deliver the goods and glanced at her address.
Oh, man. We’d been to this place before. This was the run down motel we delivered food pantry items to last March. How does this woman live there with her 3 children?
My own daughters chose most of the gifts for the girls. A messenger bag, a soft blanket, and a stuffed toy were all items from their lists. My friend, Ann, works at Adidas and donated the cutest hoodies ever. I pray the family awakes on Christmas morning excited to see Santa found them in the motel room this year. Santa also remembered Mom with a gift-card hoping she would pick out something she needs for herself.
On delivery day, we stopped by Sunset Presbyterian to pick up groceries. Tons of volunteers made sure everything ran smoothly. I’m sure it was chaos inside the church. Outside, however, we patiently waited in line for food to be loaded in our car.
|Loved waiting in this line.|
|Volunteers loaded the car.
We didn’t lift a finger.
Arriving at the motel, we found the room and parked. I knocked and a yipper dog alerted everyone to my presence. A woman answered the door and I introduced myself.
“Oh, thanks,” she mumbled, “Sorry, I just woke up. The kids are gone and I never get this place quiet. Come in.”
Smoke permeated the room and seeped into my own clothing. My husband and girls brought the food and gifts to the room. We had the kids wait at the door while Edd and I brought the load inside.
My oldest stopped and looked in. The room consisted of a queen bed, a dresser, and a kitchenette. A decorated Christmas tree stood crammed in the corner.
“Mom,” she whispered, “where does everyone sleep?”
“You’re looking at it,” I responded.
We left. The car was quiet. Never again can I complain about my own rented house being too small. Never again can I complain that I don’t like the layout of my home. Never again can I…
I know myself.
Instead of saying “Never again” I need to be saying, “Lord, help me remember.”
How To Help:
If you’d like to make a family’s Christmas brighter next year, search out churches that participate in adopt-a-family activities.
Here in Portland, Sunset Presbyterian has an awesome program. Truly, the volunteers in charge work their tails off so community volunteers get to take care of the fun stuff like gift shopping and delivering. My troupe may have been the ones receiving the credit from the family served, but the volunteers running this operation deserve all the praise.
|A ton of turkeys for a ton of families|
If you want to assist a family but have no idea where to start, “like” my Facebook page to keep in contact. Next year I can help to hook you up with the right people.
As a parent, watching my daughters light up on Christmas morning as they look under the tree is complete joy. Because of the volunteers that run assist-a-family programs, parents in every income level have the opportunity to experience that same happiness.
“A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!” Which all the family re-echoed. “God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol