(1st picture is my almost 16 year old and her boyfriend and 2nd is my mom and dad)
This year is the most I have been involved with it .. cuz my parents went away for the weekend so it was left to me to buy the gifts for the kids on the list and organize the toys ... I had a list of names gender and ages... I went shopping with my hubby and youngest daughter and man did I find that stressful! how was I supposed to know what the perfect gift would be for that kid? what if he didn't like Hot Wheels...and me having have had NO brothers and NO sons..yet :) .... I am lost in the what to buy a boy department! apparently so is my youngest as she argued with Paul about what little boys would like and not like ... lol but then she is 12 and argues about absolutely everything these days mostly with head flung back a few stomps of her feet and a deep growl!! not exaggerating!!! 12 is a FUN age uh hem ... anyway! We managed to get it all bought and then Sunday I had to go through the list and decide who got what of what I bought .... again stressful cuz I didn't want any child to be disappointed!
Then last night as I was there cuz when I do something I like to follow it through to the end and I wanted to make sure that no one was missed even though I checked the list twice! I am glad I got a few extra gift cards as one of the boys had been put down on the list by their organization (we worked with 2 organizations last night... Avalon and Sources) and they said Joshua Male 5 years old .... he's actually 15!! pretty sure the hot wheels that I bought for a 5 year old would not quite cut it :) ... I was kind of standing to the side, talking to a few of the families mostly trying to explain that yes this really is baby #5 on the way and yes there is a fine line between being brave and crazy :) haha... when a 12 year old girl opened her gift of the game "apples to apples" and the entire family of 6 started screaming and bouncing up and down on their chairs ... the mom looked at me and said we have been wanting that game for 2 years now but it just wasn't in our budget!... ok I have had tight times but I have never been in a position where my kids wanted something like a $25 board game and I couldn't get it for them for 2 years!!.. a huge reality check! ... and I told her oh I am so glad you all like it!! the teens all had huge smiles on their faces... then a little while later the 15 year old girl opened her gift which was a $50 gift card to Walmart... the mom and dad started to cry... the mom jumped up and hugged me saying thank you thank you thank you thank you over and over and then said into my ear "that's my entire Christmas budget this year. I was just diagnosed with a brain tumour and I am dying" ... ok so now I was crying as well!
My parents pay for all the toys and this year we opened it up as a toy drive (last year they spent $5,000!!!) and we had quite a few toys, gift cards and cash donations dropped off, it was great to open it up for others to get involved in!! the restaurant, which my parents own, provide all the food... a complete Turkey dinner (real turkey not some processed crap!). The whole event is kind of crazy ... there are excited kids everywhere and the buzz and noise can be a bit overwhelming .. my dad likes to pack them all in :) and in a restaurant with other customers coming in and out .. it can be a bit ...mmm much at moments! last night a customer donated $50 after seeing what was happening and was so moved!
The big push behind all this .. is my dad!
My dad was raised by a single mom. My grandfather died when my dad was only 2 years old and my uncle was 6. She worked in the stock room at Zellers making min wage.. they lived in a house owned by their church which was tiny and had an outhouse in the back yard and a dug out basement, pretty sure there were many years of no running water as well as my dad tells stories of bringing in snow to melt on the stove to have a bath with .. my dad had to share a bed with his mom for a very long time. My dad remembers my grandma sitting down at the table and praying for their next meal as the cupboards were empty .. and sure enough the doorbell would ring and there would be a bag of groceries at their front door! when my grandma had extras she would make donuts and the kids would line up out the door as my grandma would hand them out. They had a little support from my grandma's family as some Aunts and Uncles would take the 2 boys to their farms over the summer so they were not left home alone all summer long while my grandma worked. To say they were poor was an understatement. My dad remembers members of their church giving them Christmas presents and making them Christmas dinners as my grandma just couldn't do it on her own.
My dad has a heart for single struggling moms.
His face when he sees all the kids cramped into the tight room is something to see! he doesn't get overwhelmed by the noise or the chaos .. his face is lit up like a Christmas tree .. he is absolutely beaming!! he picked up a 2 year old boy last night and swung him around a little as the kids were singing "Santa Claus was coming to town" .... what they do before Santa makes his big entrance... his joy was palpable and contagious! my mom looked at me and said "this is why we do it" ... she started telling some of our staff my dads story and the Biblical principle of sewing and reaping they sat in awe listening to every word! our chef said "somehow I always thought Dwayne was rich" ...it's amazing how we all have a story! and I feel how important to share our stories with others!
I have never known the poverty that my dad knew. There were years of extreme difficult times growing up where power was cut and there was no money for our oil tank heater so we piled on the blankets on our bed .. but we always had food and clothing ... my kids have never even known those difficult times ... and I can't help but feel a shift in perspective yet again about Christmas and the commercialism and how really it is SO much better to give then to receive!! My kids have never known a $50 Christmas budget!! like not even close! and I am grateful that we haven't been in that position but I do hope that seeing what they saw last night and hearing about how excited the kids were.. ok there was this 3 year old little girl that just stood there eyes glazed over saying "I love you Santa" over and over .. SOOOOO adorable!! ... I really hope that my kids catch the Spirit of Giving as well! It's the best Christmas gift I can give them!!