There's something about children. Simplistic minds. Pure love. On the first day, a third grade girl was immediately drawn to a car washing kit similar to the one pictured below. As though drawn by magnetic force right toward it, she honed in on it and said to me, "I'm getting that for my dad!" I believe she had $12 with her, and the kit alone was $7, so I had to work with her to help her find the rest of the gifts she wanted to buy and still be able to get that car washing kit for her dad. She wouldn't budge on that, and I thought it was so sweet to watch her process through all the things she needed to get and manage it all with only $12. I could tell she didn't live in a home of abundance, and yet her joy was no different from the children who had more money to spend.
One of the things that was so difficult for me was seeing the wide ranges of economic status. Some kids came with $40 plus, while some children brought change and a couple of dollar bills. Since we were not allowed to give cash back on the check, the children whose parents wrote a check (and most were for $20 or $30) were required to spend the entire amount. So some children struggled to spend all they had while others struggled to get everything with what little they had. Both were equally as heartbreaking. Watching a child fret over having to pick something off the table that they didn't really want or need was just as upsetting to them as it was to the child who had to put something back on the table because they didn't have enough funds to purchase. I had never seen the pain of having too much and too little displayed in such a manner right before my eyes. I have always believed that the middle is the place to be, and my time at the Santa Shop confirmed that.
Yesterday, we had a little boy that came in with an envelope that had two $1 bills and $4.75 in change. I could tell that it was probably all his mom had to give him. We all worked with him as he picked out something for his mom, his grandmother, and of course a little something for himself. He kept coming up fifty cents short, so I threw it in for him. And then there was this other sweet boy who had $5. That's all he had, and he said all he needed to buy for was his daddy. That broke my heart because I had to wonder why he wasn't buying for mom. He was drawn to a $3 measuring tape, but he also had a little red fire truck in his arms that he wanted for himself. And you know the mom in me told him I wanted him to have it even though he didn't have enough. I threw in the $3... how could I not? It was heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking.
In the down time, one of the PTO board members told me that there were around 30 children in the school that were considered homeless. Granted, our school is large - around 950 children. But it's kindergarten through third grade. These kids are young, way too young to be worried about not having food or a warm place to call home. This morning I received an email from our home owner's association saying that we will be collecting food items or money to help the children in need at the elementary school make it through the Christmas break. My heart can't handle it. I can't help but wonder if I saw any of those children some through the Santa Shop in the two days I worked.
Life. It's unfair, unequal, unforgiving. My family has faced "financial difficulty" over the past couple of years, but we've still got our home and food in the pantry. My kids may not have all they want, but they have all they need. And yet I feel they don't appreciate anything, not because they haven't been taught better at home but more because of this society of overindulgence and abundance. But how can I teach them, how can their little brains wrap around the idea that some children don't have anything to eat at home, and some don't even have a place to call home.
Today I want to focus my prayer on those innocent souls who suffer everyday. Whose stomachs churn in hunger at night. Who don't know where they'll sleep next week. Who may not believe in Santa because he never comes. I pray for them, I pray that God will wrap His loving arms around them and warm their soul. I pray that we will all look for opportunities to help these children in our own communities. And I pray that my children will be kind every day to those around them and realize how fortunate they are.