It is the most magical time of year, a time when people reflect on what they have done with their time in the past 11 months. It is a time when people reach out to one another, sharing compassion and hope, kindness and friendship. It is a time when many people and organizations will come together to help those in need. And the most magical part of the season is the way the children take it all in, how they light up brighter than the lights on the Christmas tree when they rip open a present. How they stare in amazement at the big man in red and ask politely if the beard is real. How they remain so hopeful even when times are hard and hope seems so surreal. Children believe and they deserve to do so.
I will never forget last year. It was the day after Christmas or maybe even two days after. I found myself standing in line to return something, which is worse than standing in line waiting to buy something on Black Friday, believe it or not. At least on Black Friday you have the excitement of bringing something home and opening it up. But on this particular day, I was there to give my something back. In front of me was a small framed woman, very thin and very jittery. She appeared to not be able to stop twitching. In her cart to be returned were Christmas outfits for children of different sizes and a huge box of Pampers.
When it was finally her turn, she approached the Walmart service desk and said she wanted to return all the items but she didn’t have the receipt. The service representative asked if there was anything wrong with the items, to which the woman replied she just didn’t need them. The service rep then informed the woman that without the receipt the items that had already gone on sale (e.g. the clothing) could only be returned for the sale price and not the full price, to which the woman replied, that was fine.
Standing behind the woman, I was a little surprised at this. If I had paid full price for something, I would want all my money back and would go home and try to find that receipt. Of course, it was then obvious that she didn’t purchase any of the items herself for her children. These had most likely been given to her.
As she continued to twitch, she placed the large box of Pampers on the counter and wanted the money back for those as well. The service rep once again asked if there was a reason she was returning the Pampers. Again, the woman replied, “I just don’t need them.”
Really?! A baby that doesn’t need pampers!
I could see the frustration turn to almost disgust on the service rep’s face as she eyed the woman. She scanned the bar code and seemed almost happy to inform the woman that the Pampers had not been purchased at Walmart, so they could not be returned there. The woman would have to take the Pampers back to her child.
Thinking of this story breaks my heart. While my version of the story here focuses on the “bad apple,” a mother returning her children’s clothing and Pampers, there are many good people who are not featured. These people, such as the Independent Riders and their Toy Run, The Salvation Army, the many churches, the organizations, and all those who donate to help make this time of year a happy one for everyone – especially the children – are heroes, Santa’s helpers who ride on Harleys, ring bells, ask for tips while trying their hand at table waiting, organize food drives, collect wish lists, and so much more.
I know times are hard for many families, and children deserve to experience their wishes come true. I hope people will continue to give, even knowing there are some “bad apples.” Every year, this community comes together to support those in nee in so many amazing ways.
I pray this Christmas season that every child not only gets his or her Christmas wish, but also gets to keep it as well.