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« Those Who Major in the Minors | Main | Atonement »

December 21, 2007

The look in their eyes

Gift I did my Angel Tree shopping the other night for six children, five of them in a single Memphis family. I waited until the last minute, unfortunately, so I was shopping in a very busy mall, in a department store children's department I'd not set foot in for some years. Plus, I'd never shopped for little girls and was no longer familiar with sizing for either boys OR girls. Plus, all the clerks were really busy. In desperation, I began attacking anybody in the children's department who looked like he might be a parent of young children.

"Excuse me, do you have kids?"

Slightly surprised look from a young dad. "Yes, I do."

"Are they boys or girls?"

Another puzzled look. "They're boys."

"How old are they?"

"Five and nine."

"Great! That's perfect!"

Dad begins backing away from the woman with the strange glitter in her eyes.

"I have to buy sneakers for two boys I don't know, aged six and 10. I have no idea how big their feet are....What size shoes do your boys wear?"

"Oh." Dad is beginning to get it. "The five-year-old wears a size one-and-a-half, and the 9-year-old wears a size four. You'll probably want to get a size four-and-a-half for the 10-year-old."

"Great. Thank you very much."

"No problem."

In the end, I bought two coats, two pairs of sneakers, pink flannel pajamas for a little girl, a soccer ball, a football, an arts-and-crafts set, and a few other toys for smaller kids. I took the gifts to one of those mall holiday gift-wrapping for charity places (which, interestingly, was run by a couple of cheerful Jewish ladies raising money for a hospital in Israel--I don't know, it just struck me as funny).

The box the UPS guys brought out for shipping most of this stuff was enormous, and I winced at the price of getting it to Memphis to the Angel tree family by Christmas (I know, I know, Zoe--I shoulda done all this a couple of weeks ago).

But...hovering in the back of my mind as I shopped was a scene from the 1971 film The Homecoming, which inspired the television series The Waltons. I'd just watched it again last week. 

On Christmas Eve, the Walton children are invited to Ike Godsey's general store because a lady missionary is there to distribute Christmas gifts to the poor. The missionary makes a big deal out of giving the youngest Walton, Elizabeth, a doll. But when Elizabeth unwraps it, she discovers to her horror that the doll's face is cracked from top to bottom.

"It's dead! Somebody killed it!" Elizabeth screams.

As John-Boy later confides to his diary, "Nobody ever gave away anything worth keeping, I guess." 

I think of that scene as I shop for children I will never meet--children whose dads are in prison, and who are probably poor. And I think of my own sons when they were small, joyfully tearing open their gifts on Christmas morning, from loving parents and grandparents and friends. Nice gifts, sometimes expensive gifts. And I realize how little we will miss the extra money we spend on faraway children who are, like the Christ Child, in rather a bad situation, financially and in other ways. And I want them to have the same expression on their faces, when they tear into that big box, that my own kids had on their faces on Christmas morning....not the expression Elizabeth Walton had on her face when she opened HER gift from strangers.

If we're going to do Angel Tree, we ought to do it with generous and loving hearts, as if we were buying gifts for the Christ Child--which, in a sense, we are (Matthew 25:35-40).

Which is not to say I didn't search for really good deals. And the shopping gods the Lord in heaven was looking out for me...the parkas were a whopping 60 percent off, and when I opened a store credit card, I got another 10 percent off, not only on the coats, but everything else I bought that night. Ho! Ho! Ho!

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Gina Dalfonzo

You know, Anne, I had the exact same problem re: shoes, and even after corralling a nice lady in the children's shoe department the same way you did, I still didn't feel certain enough about what shoe size to buy for a four-year-old girl (who knows, the child could have huge feet, just like I did). I ended up buying her clothes instead. Note to Angel Tree organizers -- how about a space on those tags for shoe size along with clothing size next year? ;-)

anne morse


Angel Tree recommends that you get a gift receipt for items like shoes so that parents can exchange them if necessary. I taped the receipts to each package.

I also made a point of shopping at a big chain department store--the kind with a store in every city--to make it easy to make exchanges.


Anne, I would have loved to have been there -- too funny. And great idea about gift receipts: The rate my 11-yr.-old daughter's going, I wonder if there will be shoes long enough when she's done growing. Sigh. But what a wonderful thing, to have gotten such needed gifts I'm sure they'll appreciate.

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