by Sarah Quezada
More than a decade ago, a neighborhood mom invited me to join her picking up Christmas gifts for her son. I had met this precious duo a few months earlier when she approached me to “tutor” her 11-year old son. (Really we just spent a lot of time visiting and talking.)
I accepted her Christmas invitation with gratitude. On the designated morning, we walked to the local ministry organization in the biting December chill. Mothers lined the sidewalk, gripping paperwork, and eager to pick up gifts a stranger had purchased for their children that year.
We, too, checked in at the registration table and soon received a garbage bag full of gifts with my friend’s son’s name written on it. We hauled the bag back through the streets and alleys until we snuggled into their one room apartment, the stove on to heat the space.
Without much fanfare, the boy tore open the bag and inspected his gifts. Within seconds, I witnessed disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment collide in his expression. He tossed the bag of presents aside. “These are girl toys,” he mumbled.
He soon left the apartment with only his worn basketball. His mom sighed. “This happens every year.” I nodded quietly. His name is more often given to girls than to boys, so the mistake was understandable, though unfortunate. “But this year,” she continued, “I wrote in big letters: HE A BOY. And still with the girl presents.”
There are families who cannot afford to buy Christmas presents, whether it’s a year of particular hardship or an ongoing challenge with poverty. And there have always been people and organizations who work hard to make sure no child goes without a Christmas gift. But whenever I see these programs, I remember my friend’s attempt at a workable solution and the resulting humiliation and disappointment.
But what can you do? For years afterwards, I wrestled with if or how to participate in Christmas gift charities. Then, in 2009, I moved into South Atlanta, where Pride for Parents takes place each year.
The program is run by FCS, who collects toys and gifts and then sells them at a community store for below market prices. Parents with limited means are given the opportunity to shop for gifts at prices they can afford. I think back to my friend’s apartment and wonder how different that experience might have been if she had been given the opportunity to select and purchase gifts for her son.
I am grateful for the presence of Pride for Parents in my community. It is not a giveaway program that may charm or may accidentally humiliate. It is a creative, innovative Christmas drive that offers parents dignity and the power to choose gifts for their children. As a mom myself, I know how much delight I receive each year as I watch my kids oooh and ahhh over the presents I chose with them in mind. I want all my neighborhood moms to receive that same joyful gift this Christmas.
Image credit: Kris Mouser-Brown