It was Christmas Day. I was 12, and spending Christmas alone. Again.
We lived in low-income housing in Birmingham, Alabama. Dad was in prison and Mom was a waitress at a family restaurant.
Keep the door locked,” Mom said, as she left. And I did; even though, I felt as incarcerated as Dad, and I hadn’t committed any crimes.
Weeks earlier I had met a girl my age, named AnnaBeth. She lived on the third floor. One day after Mom left I heard a knock on the door. I knew I was breaking Mom’s rule. But I learned long ago, loneliness never took a holiday. I lifted the chain. “AnnaBeth, come in.”
“I came to invite you and your mother to dinner tonight. Can you come?”
“I’ll ask,” I said with a smile on my face.
“Hey, where’s your Christmas tree, Misty?”
“Mom says we don’t have money for presents and trees this year.”
“Well, Christmas isn’t about presents and trees. It’s about Christ’s birthday.”
“Yeah, I know, but isn’t that what normal people do for Christmas?”
“You look normal to me,” said AnnaBeth “And pretty, too.”
“Thanks, so are you. Say, do you have a tree?”
“Yes, it has an angel on top. I call it our angel tree.”
“Maybe we’d have one too, if Dad wasn’t a prison inmate.”
“Don’t feel bad. My dad is in prison, too,” AnnaBeth said, “We live upstairs because we lost our home.” She glanced at the clock. “It’s getting late. I better go.”
Mother got home at seven. I told her about AnnaBeth’s invitation, but she kept walking. She wasn’t happy about me letting AnnaBeth in while she was gone. “Can we go, please?”
“Misty, I don’t know those people. Let me rest.”
Tears slid down my cheeks. “What’s the matter, honey?”
“I’m lonely. We have no friends. We have no church. Why can’t we do something normal? Like eating supper with AnnaBeth’s family. Her dad is in prison, but they don’t live like hermits.”
“I never realized how hard this has been for you; of course we’ll go.”
That evening, Mom and I entered AnnaBeth’s living room, full of parents and children all excited about Christmas. A tree adorned with colorful ornaments, and loaded with Christmas presents stood in a corner.
Mom and AnnaBeth’s mom laughed and joked like they were old friends. After supper the children gathered around the tree, eyeing the gifts. AnnaBeth’s mother said, “Before we open gifts and read the Christmas story, I want to tell you about the [url=http://www.angeltree.org/angeltreehome]AngelTreeprogram[/url]. They’re sponsored by [url=http://www.angeltree.org/prisonfellowshipministries[/url].
These programs help [url=http//www.angeltree.org/chikdrenofprisioninmates]child of prison inmates as well as their incarcerated parents by introducing them to Jesus, and by helping the children in many ways throughout the year. Tonight is their gift to each of you. Merry Christmas!
I slipped closer to mom. “Mom, do you miss Daddy?”
“I miss him too, but tonight, I’m happy.”
“Merry Christmas, sweetheart. Look, here comes your gift.”
“I already have the best gifts—Jesus, you and Daddy.”
To learn more about Angel Tree and Prison Fellowship Ministries visit their web-sites. Although they serve 400,000 children, they know there are 1.7 million children of incarcerated parents who need their help. You can make that possible. Simply follow the links provided in this article and give your best gift.
James 1:27 says, Religion that is pure and undefiled, before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.