Since I began this journey, I have written posts born out of emotions such as frustration, anger, regret, sadness, etc. But the other night I got to experience something I hadn’t before, and it broke me in a way I haven’t been in years. It was at the Christmas party, put on by Social Services, and contributed towards by members and organizations within our community. Admittedly, I had reservations about attending. I’m embarrassed to say that I believed these kids were probably run through a line where they received a cheap toy and a cookie; A charade of sorts so that people could throw money at a problem and ease their consciences, without ever needing to dirty their hands with the day-to-day grind of actually helping a child in need. I believed this long before the thought of becoming a foster parent ever crossed my mind. I honestly don’t know where I acquired such an ignorant mindset, and what I found there was anything but what I described above.
For starters, one organization alone had donated $10,000 in gifts. Additionally, others had donated hundreds, and the community contributions through the adopt-a-family program were anything but what my imagination had fabricated. They donated wonderful gifts. Children with nothing were given bikes, action figures, dolls, jackets and shoes, just to name a few. My twins were met with warm faces from different people who had in one way or time been involved in their lives, all excited to see them and watch them open and enjoy their gifts. All of which, by the way, were high quality and purchased by people who wanted nothing more than to light up the eyes on a child’s face. The donor’s names, no where to be found on the packaging. Given anonymously, from a place a true kindness.
As I sat there, grateful I hadn’t shared my cynicism with anyone else and could just choke on my ignorance privately as I watched my own children light up with each gift their names had been hand written on by some caring stranger, a little boy sitting across the table from us said something that broke me on a deeply emotional level.
This boy, no older than five or six years of age, anxiously clamored for my attention. I looked up and met his bright blue eyes, beaming with excitement as he held a batman action-figure and matching bat-mobile. What he said to me next changed my life. He said, “Look at what someone got for me. I didn’t get forgotten.” He grinned from ear-to-ear and added, “This is exactly what I hoped for.”
(I didn’t get forgotten.)
I gotta tell you, if you’ve never seen a grown man cry, that little boy would probably tell you it’s not a good look. As I choked back an audible outburst of emotion, the face of that little boy beginning to blur, I rubbed my eyes and showed more interested in that boy’s gift than I had ever shown for anything in my life. And still, I could not match his excitement. Somebody changed that boys life that day. They made a child feel remembered and loved and that experience changed my life forever. If I could have brought that boy home that night and raised him with my twins, I would have leaped at the opportunity. I wish I had been the person who had taken the time to buy and wrap that gift. I really wish the person who did had gotten to experience the joy on that kids face alongside me.
Before we left, I asked a social worker a few questions and learned about the three full days it took to wrap all those gifts, and prepare this event. I have never felt prouder to be a small part of something so big in my life. Both of my boys received a blanket on the way out that had been handmade by someone who had taken the time to hand-make dozens of them, and I looked once more across a sea of faces. Foster children from infants to early teens, social workers and community members, foster parents and biological parents, all in the same room with one, singular goal in mind: To put a smile on the face of a child. A goal they met with each and every child in attendance.
At the beginning of this text, I began by describing the various emotions that have birthed these posts. This post was birthed purely from the joy on the face of a little blue-eyed boy holding a batman figurine amazed that someone had taken the time to remember him and give him the one toy he’d set his heart on. It was birthed from the shame of my own cynicism. It was birthed from a broken sort of humility, grateful to a community who stepped up for children they may never meet, to put a smile on a face they may never see.
May God bless each and every one of you this Holiday Season.
4 thoughts on “An Unexpected Gift”
What an awesome story!! Thank you so much for sharing… I have to admit I have probably feltvthe same about these “social systems” and never knew the heart behind it! Merry Christmas !!
This was just what I needed to read this morning, thank you Shawn.
You guys did an awesome job with that. You made a lot of kids very happy.