The Angel Tree Program is something that is very near and dear to my heart. This is a program that I have participated in at Christmastime every year since I was in college. Actually, it kind of started before then. . .
I remember when I was a kid, my mom "adopted" an entire family one year at Christmas. By "adopting" this family, that meant that my family went out and bought Christmas gifts for the family so that they would have something to open on Christmas Day. I can't remember how old I was or even how many kids there were in the family, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was a single mom with at least two kids. I remember that we bought the mom a watch. Again, I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I'm pretty sure I was younger than 12. Despite the minor details of the event, this action had a huge impact on me. My mom was a single mom and to see her doing something so selfless for another mother who wasn't able to do for her own children what my mother was so blessed to be able to do for us was very powerful for me. Despite growing up in a household where my mom was a single mom with three kids, I had a great childhood. I didn't live a luxurious life by any means, but my mother provided for us and did it well. We didn't always get everything we wanted but I don't know that I can ever recall a time where we didn't have what we needed or when my mom was struggling to a point where we had to put off getting things that we needed. I recognized somewhere in my older elementary school years that not every single parent household was like this. I didn't fully understand why some of my friends who only had one parent didn't live the same lifestyle I did. I mean, we had a nice home, a nice car, we had nice clothes, food in the kitchen, nice stuff in our house, bikes to ride, we participated in activities, took vacations, etc. Not all of my friends had those same blessings. Once I recognized, through the actions of my mother adopting this family, that some families don't even get to have a Christmas, I vowed to try to make a difference in the life of at least one child every year.
So, in college, my roomates and I adopted a child each year that we provided Christmas gifts for. As an adult, I have adopted an Angel each year and provided at least something for that child each year at Christmastime. It felt good knowing that I was giving back and making a difference in at least one child's life. However, it wasn't until I had Tyler that I recognized that my regular participation in this program could make a huge difference in his life. Every year, Tyler and I adopt an Angel off of the Angel Tree at Christmas. Not just any Angel though, we try to adopt an Angel like him. A child who is the same age as Tyler and we try to get an Angel who is an only child. There are two reasons for this: 1. if the child is an only child, I think Tyler feels that the kid is more like him (because he's an only child) and 2. I fully believe in this program, but I hate the thought of multiple children in one household not all being adopted at Christmas or being adopted by different individuals and then there is a huge discrepency in the return of the gifts that have been donated for one of the children. To better explain that statement, I'll give you a little personal insight. I have a friend (who, of course, will remain nameless to protect her identity) who is just one of the best people I've ever met. She is geniunely a beautiful person with an amazing heart and soul. But, the financial gods haven't always been so kind to her. She had to turn to Angel Tree (or a similar program) one year to provide holiday gifts to her children. She has two. A boy and a girl who are a couple of years apart in age. The kids were both "adopted" that year but by what we think were different individuals. My friend's son got almost every toy that was on his wish list and a few other things that the "adopter" had selected for him. Her daughter got a handmade crochet blanket. Now, don't get me wrong, a blanket is a wonderful gift. Especially if it's handmade. But, this child was too young to understand the situation. She was too young to understand why her brother got all these toys and she got. . .a blanket. My friend was thankful that there were people in our community who are willing and able to help those, like her, who need help to provide a great holiday to their kids, but she was left in a tough position to make sure that her daughter woke up on Christmas morning and had something to unwrap that was going to make her as excited as her brother was going to be about his new toys. To make a long story short, that's pretty much why I try to ensure that we select an Angel who is an only child. The older Ty gets, though, the harder it's getting to find an Angel who is an only child, though!
Anyways, each year, Ty and I go together to search the tree trying to find the right Angel. I let him choose each year whether he wants it to be a girl or a boy his age. Three years ago, he chose a girl (why? I don't know.) but the past two years, he's chosen boys. We then go and pick out an outfit and a few toys for the Angel. Every year, it gets better and better because Ty understands more about what it is that we're actually doing and he's starting to understand how much of an impact that we are having on someone else. I think her really likes the fact that he can pick out the toys that we give to the Angel and he knows how excited he would get about the stuff that he's picking out so he thinks they'll be excited too. The way I explained it to him is that we are very very blessed to have everything that we have. Not everyone is as blessed. Some kids' parents can't afford to get them any presents to put under the tree so we do what we can to help those families have something for their kids. He gets that. I have hit a rough patch the last two years though. Tyler insists that Santa will still visit those kids and bring them presents. What am I supposed to say to that? Umm. . .Santa only visits families whose parents can afford to buy presents? Nope, probably not going to cut the mustard on this one. So, I just explain to him that Santa brings unwrapped presents (because in our house, Santa doesn't wrap anything) and we have SO much fun unwrapping all of the presents from Mom & Dad, right? Well, don't those kids deserve the fun of unwrapping some presents too? So far, that's worked. Maybe once he finds out the truth behind Santa, he'll realize even more what an impact we're making? I hope so.
Since this is our first year just the two of us, things have been REALLY financially tight. I considered not adopting an Angel this year because I was concerned about overstretching myself financially. But, after careful consideration, I decided that I still needed to do this. If anything, I needed to do it more this year than in years past. My mom made such a huge impact on me by her actions as a single mom, I want Tyler to see that even when things are tough, we can always find a way to give back to someone else. Always. So, I rearranged some things in the budget and was able to re-allocate $50 to put toward providing something for the Angel. Plus, I found a toy that I had bought on clearance a while back that I had intended to give to Tyler for Christmas but once I pulled it out, I realized that Ty's dad had given him the exact same toy this year for his birthday. Score! Easy Angel Tree gift! So, aside from the toy, we also got the Angel an outfit, an MP3 player, some earbuds to with it, and some books. Admittedly, not much but at least Tyler knows that this kid has something that he will be opening on Christmas morning. As a mom, I feel great knowing that I've been able to do something to help another parent provide something for their child and I feel great knowing that I'm teaching my son lessons on charity, compassion, and thinking about others.