Five years ago, my sister, Mara, sent me an email about her second grade students, in an impoverished school. She sent some of their letters they had written to Santa. The letters were heartbreaking- kids were asking not for phones, X-Boxes, or video games. They wanted coats, food, jobs for their parents, and the one request that went straight to my heart from the little boy, who only asked for “socks with no holes in them.”
She asked me if I could post her request for donations on my blog, so she could help give these kids some sort of a Christmas. It was the least I could do.
A few weeks later, Mara, told me excitedly that one of the officers, Seargent Alex, at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, CO had read my blog post regarding her school, responded to the call, and the officers and their families in his unit, were “adopting” her classroom, to bring these students gifts. Mara didn’t originally get the first message he left for her at the school. It was a bad connection and she couldn’t make out the number he had left. I wrote another post, asking if Seargent Alex was still reading my blog, to please call Mara again- she needed the help. He ended up seeing the post, and contacted her again. He put in effort to make this happen.
I remember feeling amazed, happy, and proud, that the few minutes I took to post her request on my blog- someone who wanted to help, reached out and helped children who otherwise would not have a Christmas- have a day they would never forget.
It was a particularly bright moment for me, because at the time, my marriage was crumbling, for a variety of reasons. I remember telling my now ex-husband about Mara’s room, the gifts, about Seargent Alex finding my blog, and all the help his unit was giving Mara’s classroom. He looked at me and said, “Who would ever want to read your blog? Don’t they have anything better to do in the Air Force?” Anyone who writes, knows you put a lot of yourself into your writing, and it hurt to hear that. But, I was determined to stay focused on the positive-someone had read the post, and wanted to help. I knew Seargent Alex had read my blog-of course he had better things to do, but this was important to him, as it was to me.
Over the years, I’ve helped Mara shop for the kids, posted the blog story again and again, help her with the drive, answer emails- anything she asked me, I tried to help out with the best I could. I have helped her do everything but actually show up on the day. I was always working. I wanted to take Ryan and Cole with me, but they were always in school.
This year, Ryan and Cole’s school was out a few days before Mara’s gift drive for her kids. I decided to just make it happen. I asked Mara what else her class needed and she said pencil sharpeners. Her kids only have 1 or 2 pencils, and if the lead breaks at home, they don’t do their homework. When she has given them mechanical pencils, their older siblings take them, because they don’t have pencils. So Ryan, Cole, and I got on Amazon, and picked out a bulk package of pencil sharpeners. It came to a whole $6. Ryan and Cole split the cost, and paid for them out of their allowance.
Yesterday, we finally got to Mara’s room for the gift drive. Ryan and Cole started handing out the sharpeners. We had enough to give each student 3. The kids were squealing and saying, “These are so cool,” like they were receiving something much more than a small pencil sharpener. They started changing the lids around to make a “Bronco” sharpener- blue and orange. Ryan came over to whisper to me, “they are so happy, Mom, over a pencil sharpener.” I told him yes, and he helped make them happy.
The four officers from Buckley Air Force, who came that first year, with Seargent Alex, with gifts for my sister’s class, has grown since that first year in 2008. Yesterday there were more than 30 Air Force Officers, at the school for gifts for the ENTIRE second grade. They had coats, mittens, toys, food, smiles, hugs, and love for these kids. I never would have imagined that afternoon; a simple blog post could have grown into something that it has.
I found out from Mara too, that Seargent Alex is no longer in active duty. I was sad to hear that, and sad I was never able to meet him. But then she said, “But he’s here today. He comes every year, and still helps out. He’s here with his wife and toddler son.”
For the first time yesterday, I met Seargent Alex. He said he had been looking for a way to help, people who really needed it, and it was actually difficult to do so! He said he had checked with various organizations, and they all asked him to just drop off a check. But he wanted to actually do something. He said he came across my blog then, and knew he had to call Mara. I thanked him, for all of this over the years, and he thanked me for writing the post.
For me, it has come full circle. I set out to help Mara five years ago- never expecting anything to come from it like this, it has ended up helping me. Just always knowing one person like the “Seargent Alex’s” of the world are out there, willing, able, and lovingly ready to help. When people tell you what you do, will never make a difference, Mara’s gift drive for her second grade students, the people like Seargent Alex, and all the people from family, to friends, to strangers, who help, proves that wrong, every year. It keeps growing, and the generosity keeps growing every year too.
Tears were brought to my eyes yesterday, as I was standing by the cutest little girl, Joselyn. She opened her box with a coat, gloves, and a hat. She hugged her box. She smiled. Then she asked if we could wrap it back up for her, so she could have something to open on Christmas Day. Ryan and Cole heard this, and their eyes grew wide. I told her “of course, sweetie.” Ryan took the box from her, Mara got the wrapping paper, and Cole got the tape. Ryan, Cole, and I, rewrapped that present with probably more love, than I have ever wrapped a present before. The boys found a candy cane for her, and helped me tape it to the box. Ryan told me, “Now she will have a candy cane on Christmas morning too.” Ryan and Cole both walked the gift back to her, and she was smiling from ear to ear. Just doing that simple thing- made a difference for her.
We all have struggles, problems, things we wish were different in our life circumstances, but a lot of us have a coat, and our kids have coats. We don’t worry where our next meal is coming from. We can put gifts under the tree for our kids. It might not be the iMac Pro Laptop Ryan wanted, but he doesn’t have one present he has to rewrap to open again.
It did all of our hearts good, and definitely opened Ryan and Cole’s eyes to different circumstances people live with. What they saw and witnessed yesterday- is the real meaning of Christmas. Not what you get, but what you can do for others, and how you make them feel.
Thank you Mara, for letting us be a part of this, and thank you to everyone who helps out every year.
And, thank you Seargent Alex- your kindness and actions have helped more than just second graders. The world definitely is a lot brighter for us this Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all my readers and their families!