This is the ninth year that my family has sponsored another family through the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family Christmas program. I wrote extensively last year about how and why my family became involved with this ministry. It is very near and dear to my family, so please take the time to read about the program and our experience.
Today I want to share with you our experience last year that brought me to my knees.
We received the information about our family in October, so I took advantage of the holiday sales to buy the gifts and food. We ventured out to deliver everything on Sunday, Dec 16.
If you think back to Dec 16, 2012, our country was reeling from the massacre that happened just two days prior at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I bring that up because I was emotional all weekend from that event. We live no where near CT, but at the time, I had a first grader and I just couldn’t shake what the parents of those murdered children were going through.
That Sunday, as our GPS drew us closer to the family’s home, I became a bit unsettled at the location. We were heading right into a very depressed, low income housing project. As we pulled into a parking spot, the car beside ours was sitting with 4 flat tires. Our kids sensed something was different. We weren’t in Kansas anymore.
The family that we “adopted” was a grandmother (I will call her Tanya, but not her real name) and her 3 grand kids. The kids were outside playing, unsuspecting that someone was dropping off holiday gifts. Tanya’s home was sparse, towels covered the sofa that was tattered, and there was a box of food on her kitchen table–most likely from a food bank. I helped Tanya unpack our food boxes and reviewed with her what we brought.
Our eyes met and we both started to cry. She was so appreciative for the food and gifts and I was thankful that I could help. Every year I question if we should participate in the program, especially if money is tight for my family. But in that very moment I knew that I was where God wanted me to be. I’m not very good at listening for God’s cues, but I felt his presence so much that I started shaking.
My kids were quiet and they were soaking it all in. They didn’t know how to handle Tanya or the whole experience, but they politely wished Tanya a “Merry Christmas” and we went on our way.
The questions started flowing as soon as we were in the car, “where were the kids’ mommy and daddy?, where was the tv?, did they have a computer?, why did we take them food? why did we bring them gifts?, will Santa bring them gifts?, why are they struggling?”
Yesterday, I shared how our oldest daughter has transformed over the last 3 years from a girl who wanted to live in a desert to a girl who is giving her own lemonade money to help those in need. My husband and I stressed to our kids that other families are struggling right now and we need to help in as many ways as we can.
When we pulled out of the parking lot, I lost it. I cried for the rest of the day. I was emotional for the families in CT that were grieving for their children, I was emotional for Tanya’s struggle to raise her 3 grand kids, I was overwhelmed at how much I had in that moment. There were parents who were picking out caskets and I was trying to explain to my kids how we were helping Santa. Life seemed unfair and uneven.
On the Tuesday after our gift drop off, I opened our local newspaper. There had been a shooting in the housing development on Monday at 3pm–we were in that development just 24 hours prior on Sunday at 3pm. It wasn’t Tanya–thankfully–but it was a domestic dispute that had become deadly. My heart couldn’t take much more.
Something changed that day for my family. My kids saw first hand that life isn’t lollipops and rainbows everywhere. Families are struggling out there and a seed was planted in their little hearts that they can make an impact in someone else’s life.
The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program is a wonderful way for anyone to help those in need in their local area. If you are capable, please contact your local Salvation Army for details in your area.