Monday, November 30, 2009

Vandals

I live in the country, but we have a tradition in a little town nearby. The local Lioness Club decorates some trees in a local park. There are two big trees that people can 'purchase' lights on to commemorate a loved one. For $25, you can purchase a little tree of lights with a sign in front giving the name of the person being honored. It's just a nice thing to do, and the little park is decorated for the holiday, and it gives people that little rosey glow. We have an official tree lighting ceremony the weekend after Thanksgiving. The scrolls with the names of the honored people are uncovered. Friend Tom is the MC. The girl scouts read a little Christmas story, the boy scouts pull the tarps from the scrolls, and then we all sing Christmas carols and retreat to the pavilion for hot chocolate and cookies.

This year was different. In our quiet little village vandals destroyed ten of the trees. Most shockingly, the children believed to have done it are very young. Two of them are in elementary school. And the adults there whispered about this. The fact that the mother is suspected to be a drug user, the fact that these very young kids are left to roam alone for most of the time, with no supervision at all. Stories about the poverty, unkempt and dirty children. What stuck in my mind is this: children normally are excited by Christmas. Wide eyed. The idea that children would lash out at that particular holiday was jarring to me, and I could not stop thinking about this. Long after Tim had fallen asleep, I thought about these kids. Their actions pretty much insure that the community will be watching these kids closely, suspiciously, waiting for them to do some other bad thing. These are kids that won't be given the benefit of the doubt, not again. And the 'why a Christmas display?' just kept niggling at me. Curled up, warm and drowsy next to my snoring Tim, suddenly my eyes popped open. A child would lash out at Christmas when they knew that it was all a bunch of bullshit. All the stories about Santa coming to leave presents for good little boys and girls...well, when you're poor, it does not matter how good you are, sometimes Santa doesn't come. Or if he does, you know that your gifts will be pretty sparse, no matter how good you've been, no matter how hard you've tried. Santa Claus, in this case, is no more reliable than their own mother. I laid there, viewing the holiday from the perspective of these children, and it made me very sad. By the time that morning came around, I had a plan. I talked to my Sunday School kids, and we made a plan to begin collecting for these kids, to give them Christmas. Just looking around my own house, I found two warm winter coats for the girls. Cara donated two hoodies that she scarcely wore because they were too large. We had children's books. I found teddy bears with the tags still attached at the Goodwill, and we bought them each a Christmas mug and packets of hot chocolate. We had games that the kids had received as gifts throughout the years, games that they already had. I had two duplicate kid's DVDs. Boxes of crayons bought and put away for company. A thrift store had a collection of CDs on sale that a young boy would think was cool. According to Cara, anyhow. I also found stockings for each of them, heavily ornamented and beaded stockings for the girls, just waiting to be stuffed. The whole family got involved, scouring the excesses of our own home, and coming up with an embarrassing pile of things that we had used little, or even not at all.

I'll take these things to Sunday school next week, and my kids will be excited by this. I am not sure what the rest of the church will donate, but they tend to be quite generous about things like this. My class will come to the church on Christmas eve, and we will wrap these things, and deliver them anonymously. The fastest runner will then ring the doorbell and run, and the rest of us will be waiting in my running car around the corner. Alex will leap in, and we will sneak back to the church.

Will it make a difference for these kids? I cannot tell you. But I know for sure that I could not live with my own conscience if I did not try, and it gratifies me to know that my class got so excited about this project that we failed to notice that we ran ten minutes late until a mother walked in. We can only try. That's all. We will see what God does with our efforts.

23 comments:

Karen said...

This is a beautiful post and it made me cry. I really believe that your actions and generosity will make a HUGE impact on all the children involved, those in your Sunday school class as well as the recipients of the gifts. What a great idea and such a solid lesson on "giving!"

I'll be that your class will be more excited about carrying out this little "plan" on Christmas Eve than about receiving their own presents. And more importantly, unlike the gifts they'll receive, they'll remember it the rest of their lives.

Lydia said...

Debbie, you are an amazing woman. How many times can we say "well, it won't make any difference". But you are planting a seed in the life of this family. I pray that by your actions, that maybe, just maybe they will get a little glimmer of the love that God has for them that He is showing through you, your family and the Sunday School kids.

Roland said...

Good for you. :)

Mrs. Spit said...

It may or may not make any difference to these children, but it makes a difference to your family, when you chose love over anger, patience over irritation and mercy over wrath.

Good for you.

quid said...

Debby -

I hope it makes a difference. I really do.

quid

A Novel Woman said...

I love that you did what parenting experts advise us to do with our own children - look past the bad behaviour to get an understanding of WHY a child behaves the way he does. Only then will you be able to affect any kind of change.

Never underestimate the power of a simple good deed. By doing this one act, you may be altering one child's path for the rest of his or her life. You are certainly changing that of every child and adult who participates in this act of kindness and generosity, even if it's only from reading about it.

Thank you.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Wow! What a great response to a bad act. People speak of the true spirit of Christmas. This is it. You and your Sunday School class. And who knows how it might touch these children.

Kelly said...

This is wonderful!!!

Yes, good for you AND for the example you're setting.

jeanie said...

Darn it woman, you made me cry!!! That is so beautiful. I truly hope that it makes an impact on those kids lives, if not the mother's.

BUSH BABE said...

That is FANTASTIC Deb... kinda made me well up, thinking about what it is you are doing for these kids. I do hope they see it as the gift of hope that it is.

Tell us how it goes.
:-)
BB

Scotty said...

Way to go, Debby - what a lovely thing to do.

Ruth Z Deming said...

what a good soul you are debby. such a wonderful thing to do.

Pencil Writer said...

Awesome. Real Christmas Spirit. May we all remember the Savior as we ponder and prepare for Christmas--that celebrates not only His life, but everything He stands for. Bless you, Debby, and those poor children and their mother.

Anonymous said...

I think it is just great Debby.

It will bless the giver and the receiver. I think it may be important to expect that (maybe) big things won't be noticed straight away in the recipients. But who knows what tiny seed it may plant in a soul crying out and who knows at what important stage in that child's life the memory of this gift will blossom and bless them again - and hopefully others? At least they will have a chance to realise that there is love and forgiveness in this world. And that is the gift they sorely need right now. Only a person in pain could lash out and destroy like that.

I hope the damage can be repaired or replaced somehow also for the sakes of those who decorated the trees in the first place.

Good luck and bless you and 'your' children in your efforts. Love Barb

Redlefty said...

Beautiful!

Lori said...

What a beautiful, unique, creative way to deal with something like this. I love that you lay awake thinking about this, possible getting to the root of why these kids would have done this act of vandalism and then thinking of what you could do. Even if it makes no difference (and I think it will), you'll have done something good, you and your kids, and your class will have learned a very valuable lesson at least.

That corgi :) said...

came over by way of Lori's (Dusty Pages) blog. What wisdom you had to turn this from a potentially sad hard Christmas for these little ones to one that will fill them with joy. I am sure God will bless all abundantly involved in this project :)

betty

Paula said...

Came by way of Lori's blog. Bless what you and the kids are doing and bless the suspected ones.

PaintedPromise said...

it WILL make a difference. to the kids, and to your Sunday School kids as well! God bless your efforts!!!!

Pamela said...

Hi! I came over by way of Lori's blog. You truly have a good heart. I could learn from your example.

Deb said...

Generousity matters, and it grows. I'm glad you added this to the Loads of Hope for the Holidays carnival, because I think I needed to read this for inspiration today. Thank you.

Emma said...

Amazing effort and I hope that you restore their faith not only in Father Christmas (or his religious equivalent) but also humanity too! Wish I could do more to help.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Debbie,

I was reading Lori's blog and she mentioned your post. I'm awed that you chose to bless and not curse this family. Will this selfless act make a difference? One plants the seed, one waters..."but God made it grow."

Thanks for sharing this with the blogsphere.

U