Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas (04/25/05)
TITLE: Small Beginnings
By donna robinson
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“So you are saying that we should help the kids here with items of clothing for Christmas?” asked my matter of fact Angela.
“You said the banks would let us put cards on the trees for clothing items?” asked another and I nodded.
“I guess we could just come up with different items and make them in different sizes, but how do we match them up to families?” asked Sara, who always saw the problems first.
Slowly, they each came up with ideas of how to make the idea happen. I noticed Jane had not said anything. I knew this must be hard for her as her family was always on the social worker’s list for help. I had hesitated with this idea because of her but then I remembered something my minister boss had told me.
“Christians mean well, I know that, but there’s a big difference between charity and empowerment. A true helping hand is when the receiver gets to be part of the decision making.”
I realized Jane was speaking and turned to give her my attention. She wasn’t that popular among the girls but while in the group, they knew they had to be nice to her. It was the only rule I had laid down when I took on the group. You didn’t have to be best friends outside of the group, but once they walked through that door, they were a team and would treat each other equally.
I saw her hesitate and encouraged her to continue.
“It’s just that if you choose the items, someone is going to get left out. Wrong size, wrong style, something isn’t going to be right. Just because they are poor doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions.”
The room was silent as each girl knew Jane understood more than they did.
“I would think it would be better than nothing”, spoke up Tina slightly indignant.
Jane spoke with a sad smile in her voice, “Would you feel that way if the only present you had on Christmas morning was something you didn’t want?”
Once again, silence filled the room.
“Jane, what do you suggest? I mean, how do we decide?”
Jane realized everyone was looking at her for answers and for one brief moment I saw the leadership inside of her.
“Well, why not ask the social worker to ask the parents what clothing the kids needed? We could ask them for three things for each child, their sizes, and things like that. That way they would get something they really needed and the parents would be a part of the gift.”
I could see the wheels starting to turn as they began to explore with excited voices just how they could do this. They realized it would be important for them not to know the families’ names. So they decided the social worker could just call them family 1, 2, 3 etc. They began to see how big the task would be to sort all the gifts later into the proper families. They turned to me and I just shrugged as if I didn’t know either.
I was tempted to help them but decided to wait. It didn’t take them long to realize it was an all night job and they should just find a church social hall and spend the night there separating all the gifts.
By the time the meeting ended, most of the details had been ironed out. There would be a few kinks as they took on the job but each time they rose to the occasion. Exhausted, but with the knowledge it was a job well done, they packed up the last box.
I thought we had completed the task and would move on till one girl added, “next year I think we could handle about 20 more families if we asked the other banks if we could decorate their trees too!”
17 years later I happened to run into one of them and the first thing she said was, “remember that Christmas project? Well, I’ve got my troop working it now!”
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