Without the help of many, as a single mom, our Christmases would have been bare. When I was in college, we often ran almost completely out of food. I was Old Mother Hubbard with the bare cupboards more times than I want to remember. There were times we ate saltine crackers, peanut butter and raisins for meals because they were literally the only items in the cupboard.
You can imagine the challenge of this type of lifestyle when Christmas came around each year. My parents always made Christmas very special even though we grew up poor. They scrimped and saved all year to give us the very gifts we desired. I certainly wanted to do the same for my children but just couldn’t do it. My daughter asked for a Cabbage Patch doll for years and I couldn’t get her one. It broke my heart the year I had to give her a cheap imitation instead. I made her all kinds of doll clothes out of scraps to make up for it. (My parents eventually gave her a real Cabbage Patch doll.)
Because we were so poor while I was in school full-time, we were on the lists of local organizations that helped at Christmas. One year we were given an entire meal, including turkey, potatoes and all the trimmings. My kids were nearly jumping up and down as we went through that box. It’s very telling of the circumstances we lived in that they were excited to get a box of food!
Every year I was in school, we received gifts from different organizations. They would be nearly the only gifts under the old fake tree we had. My kids didn’t care where the gifts came from, they were thrilled to get them. I remember the red and white sweater my daughter received and wore until she wore holes into it. She loved that sweater and would not have had it if not for the generosity of the giver.
We had very few decorations for our tree and a local organization called P.E.O. learned of this and their members gathered brand new ornaments for our tree. We had so much fun putting those ornaments out. We still have some of them decades later. (The year before we were given all these ornaments, we decided to really dress up our tree and make all the decorations out of construction paper. We had paper chains, stars, and ornaments. And we loved our tree. I’m not sure if the kids would agree but that tree remains my favorite ever because we did it as a family and had so much fun together.)
Every year as I buy gifts for my family, I remember these sparse times and the many people who helped to make our Christmases less sparse. I’m thankful for those willing to sacrifice to give blessings to those otherwise doing without. I need to do a better job of paying it forward for sure. I have several times over the years but certainly could do more.
Are there organizations you can support so they can make a poor family’s Christmas better this year? Do you know a poor family you could personally help? From someone who has been on the receiving end and the giving end, I can tell you that both receive joy. Merry Christmas to you all! May you “receive much joy” this Christmas season.