The families I interviewed for the Angel Tree were doing the best they could, but had recently experienced a job loss, illness, or some other sort of unexpected hardship. One father in his 30’s had tears spill down his cheeks as he told me how his wife had died three months earlier of breast cancer and because of funeral expenses and the loss of a second paycheck, there would be no Christmas for his two daughters. All they requested were two dolls and warm coats.
The Angel Tree program matches families in need with strangers who volunteer to purchase gifts for children and anonymously drop them off at a collection center. The parents pick up the gifts, never knowing the donors, and are able to save face with their children and provide a happy Christmas.
My job as a volunteer was to make sure the family truly qualified for a need and wasn’t trying to get “something for nothing.” I shouldn’t have worried because what I learned was that no matter what a person’s status in life may be, the last thing any parent ever wants to do, is ask for help.
It wasn’t so much the books, toys or clothing we distributed that made a difference, but instead, what we gave away with the most value, was my favorite word . . . “hope.” It started with a little bit of encouragement, “Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job. You have good kids who love you and this is going to be a great Christmas they’ll always remember. Everyone has ups and downs but this new year could be your best ever.” I always added that I would be praying for them, and it warmed my heart when they earnestly said they’d be praying for me too.
Hope is different for everyone and the little boy who asks Santa for a big toy truck is really dreaming and hoping for the fun adventure of pushing it around the yard and moving loads of dirt. The little girl who wants a puppy may really be hoping for a furry friend who will give her unconditional love. The gift is often the tool for dreams and wishes.
God’s gift to us over 2,000 years ago was one we didn’t ask for, yet He knew it was just what we needed. His gift of hope, pardon, comfort and love was swaddled in cloths and placed in a manger.
A woman’s illness can return, but the gift certificate she received for dinner at her favorite restaurant can bring hope for a fun evening of distraction. Hope can even be found in a pair of cozy socks for movie night in front of the TV or maybe you can find hope in something chocolate, oh yes — there’s always hope in chocolate. If it brings the promise of future joy, it’s always a good gift.
This time of year, we find the hopes of families scribbled on paper angels dangling from Christmas trees. We find hope in a manger that spills over with kindness and generosity to soothe this troubled world in which we live. To you, it may only be a toy or book or sweater, but to someone else, it could be just the promise of hope they need.
Very sweet, very moving column today. You have such a kind heart.
Thanks Ellen. Just trying to match my readers like you who are very dear people! Merry Christmas!
Your post really touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. You are so right. Without hope, we’d be lost. What a beautiful way for you to share your spiritual gifts with others.
Thanks. I’m still surprised that a lot of people don’t know how the Angel Tree program operates. They often think it’s just for a specific church or business. Merry Christmas to you!
Such a lovely sentiment! Our church put out a call on FB that there was one angel left on the tree that needed attention and was immediately flooded with takers. Did you see this story about the Alabama Wal-mart layaways being paid off? It made the ticker on the news!
What a great church to have all the angels snatched up! You’ve blessed many families this year. I saw where a few lay-aways were paid off, but not the big story. It makes me feel so good to know there are still kind and generous people in the world.
Somebody around here was certainly trying to get “something for nothing.” Some very well-meaning ( :-/) individuals made of with some Marines’ Toys for Tots stash.
Yes and Amen, Leslie Anne. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!”. So thankful for that hope we have in Christ.
Don’t you just swell with joy when you sing that? Thanks so much Leigh and Merry Christmas to you!
Hello Leslie Anne, I am having trouble finding your book here in the Northeast. I have tried to contact you via Instagram and email. Is there a way to send a direct email? Thanks!
Thank you for searching for the book. Unfortunately, the distribution has been very limited until now. Amazon has a new system, but has been restocked and new books should be available there by next week. You can always email me through the blog email if you don’t find it on Amazon soon: email@example.com.
Thanks for your patience!