Monday, October 16, 2006

Altered - making a difference in a child's life and your own

My friend Art is the Whatcom County, WA, Toys for Tots coordinator. He is a former marine, a husband, father, grandfather, a Christian, a community leader, a business man, property owner, and drives a big four wheel drive truck when he is not on his Harley Davidson Softail motorcycle.  He wears many different hats but is always looking for ways to help others in need

There is just over two months until Christmas day.  Some of you may have been shopping for bargains since the day after Christmas last year and some of you haven’t even thought about it, waiting until the day after Thanksgiving this year for those 5:00 AM sales.

I shopped for months when my children were little to fulfill their most wanted items on pages of written notes and bent pages in the toy catalogs.  I never gave them everything they wanted but tried to select what I thought would bring them the most joy on Christmas morning along with some more practical items like the surprise “Christmas Eve pajamas” they didn’t know they were going to get, new shirts, pants, and books.

I taught my children early that not everyone was as fortunate as they were.  That some children would wake up on Christmas not even to find a decorated tree, much less presents, or a turkey to feast on for dinner.  We collected and bought stuffed animals and toys to donate to local charities knowing we were making a small difference in someone’s life.  

The first Christmas after I filed for divorce I worried about how I would buy presents for my children when I didn’t own a car and barely had enough money to get by.  I was fortunate because my family stood by me.  My sister filled my pantry and freezer with food, bought enough wood to burn in my woodstove all winter, my brother gave me money to buy gifts and extras, and my parents provided food, the loan of their car, and all of them supported and loved me.  My children and I were lucky.

When we give to others we are making a difference in their lives and the lives of everyone they know.  Helping a young family or a single parent provide a toy for their child will affect their outlook on life.  Someone cared about them.  Someday maybe they will be in a position to help someone else in need.  The child that is to young to understand and only has tears on Christmas day because they didn’t experience the joy they have seen and heard on television, school, and even church, will be changed by a simple toy.  The child that is old enough to understand all the advertising understands that their friends will have a Christmas they can only imagine, will be changed with a small gift.  A child without hope is a world without joy..

I cannot image being a mother and not having the means to buy even a small gift for my child at Christmas.  I have seen written letters by young mothers giving thanks for clothing and toys at Christmas because without the generosity of others they would have had nothing under their tree.  I have then seen the same young mothers earn money to help support other charities in their community because they have learned the value of kindness.  

Art recently told a group of friends that Toys for Tots is rated #65 out of all charities in the USA.  They give back $ .98 for every dollar that they take in to provide toys to children in need.  The money and toys collected in each county stays in that county.  Please make a toy donation, a cash donation, encourage your family and friends to make a donation, contact your local Toys for Tots and ask how you can help make a difference.  You can also make a donation by mailing a check to Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, P.O. Box 1947, Quantico, VA 22134, or go online to make a donation: with a credit card, e-check, PayPal, or sell on line EBay as a mission fish and mark Toys for Tots to benefit as the nonprofit.

When we give to others we make a difference in our own lives.  The joy of knowing that a child will wake up Christmas morning with a smile on his or her face.  A mother or father won’t have a tear in their eyes of feeling like they failed their child.  

Please don’t stop at Christmas to help in your community.  You can donate good clean clothing, good coats you have out-grown or don’t use, knit a sweater or hat, make a baby blanket, visit your local volunteer center to ask how you can make a difference all year long.

As part of the season of giving our Mt. Baker Chapter Harley Owners Group had their 15th annual toy run to Stafholt in Blaine to deliver toys to the Blaine Chamber of Commerce Giving Tree Program.  We had a sheriff’s escort throughout the back roads of the county with Santa and Mrs. Claus leading thirty-one bikes and one toy wagon loaded with presents.  The residents were happy to see Santa as he personally greeted each one and gave them a small stuffed animal.  There was hot soup, coffee, and cookies for our group when we arrived and each one of us was presented a t-shirt for our generosity.  

Our church began the “Better Together” 40 days of community by Rick Warren this weekend.  I can’t think of a better choice to study as a church to bring us together and remind us as Christians to reach out to our community, especially with the holiday season just ahead of us and so many people in need.

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