Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The Angel Tree
As a mother who struggles to get by month to month, I always dread Christmas because I know that I cannot provide the gifts my children want and expect. Every year, I have to find a way to put presents under the tree with little or no resources to do so. I have successfully met the needs and wants of my children each year by utilizing the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.
This year I have tried to encourage my Facebook friends to adopt people like me from the Angel Tree program, and I was surprised to learn that many of them had an issue with the Salvation Army. There is a pervasive rumor that the Salvation Army is cruel and prejudiced in its dealings with the LGBTQ community.
When I asked Leslee Rodgers of the Las Vegas Salvation Army about that, she was outraged. She said that no matter what, their office served every need that they possibly could, without asking about sexual orientation. She was very upset that this rumor was still circulating, and said that it was just that, a rumor. The Salvation Army works to meet the needs of all people, including the LGBTQ community, with love and devotion. “We don’t ask about sexual orientation, we just ask what your needs are and work to meet those needs.”
Leslee’s office was one of the first in the nation to disperse the Angel Tree gifts this year, and they did it in a unique way. Instead of giving each family a plastic garbage bag full of gifts that may or may not be what they need and want, Leslee set up a store like setting where the parents could each come in and pick out the toys that their child would like for Christmas. She still gave away enough toys for 1,600 families (or 5,000 children), but this way each child got exactly what they wanted.
I spoke to other Angel Tree programs in Laramie Wyoming, where they will be helping 400 families, and in Denver where one of 36 Salvation Army offices will be serving 800 families, (one can only imagine how many children that multiplies out to in the city of Denver.) It is clear that there is a need for this program, and that the people who need this program are tiny people, innocent people, people who have been taught that if they wake up on Christmas morning and the tree is bare – it’s because they’ve been bad.
Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Salvation Army to pick up my bags of gifts. With hope in my heart, I prayed that my childrens’ needs and wants were met. When I arrived I gave my name to a woman behind a desk who asked for my ID. She checked the list, and sure enough, there I was next to two boys, one 8, one 11. She ferried me through the masses of bags till she found two with our numbers on them, and I was pleased that they were nice and plump. She offered to help me carry them out and I was happy that I indeed needed help with my treasure.
Waiting on the curb for my mother, I explained that the Explorer that pulled up in front of us was not mine. I did not want her to think we were too well off. Knowingly she assured me that it was ok as she helped me load my bags in the back.
When I arrived home I carefully went through the bags. There were clothes, shoes, gloves, a winter coat, snow pants, two toys each… Yes! This will make a nice Christmas. All I have left to provide is stocking stuffers and perhaps, if I can afford it, another pair of gloves.
But wait… a little card. I opened it carefully. Inside was a hundred dollars and a note. The note was to my son. It said that he should use the money to Christmas shop for his family because the true gift of Christmas is in giving.
I waited patiently for school to let out. The hundred dollars and note burning a hole in my pocket. I could not wait for Daniel to come home from school. All the efforts of the Angel Tree program had built up to this moment. It did not matter what rumors swelled about the Salvation Army, nor whether they were true or untrue. It did not matter what politics surround the poverty-stricken people of America at Christmastime. What mattered was that my son’s true Christmas wish was about to come true.
Daniel walked through the door all bundled up and noisy. He presented me with his daily homework and papers. Finally, the moment came and I explained that I had something for him and where it came from. He took the note from me, and the money fell out. His eyebrows shot up. “For me?” he asked. “Kind of.” I said. “Read the note.” And he did. “Wow.” He said after a long pause. “I know exactly what I’m gonna get you Mom.”