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A gift of joy
In my own words
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Among other Rotarians, Scott, Wilson and I worked the line at the front of Target on Dec. 12 for the Empty Stocking Fund event. Our early morning the labors with fellow Rotarians and friends were well rewarded. When estimating the financial size of the "Gift of Joy," it would look something like this: 210 children given $60 per child equals $12,000. Hurray for Rotary! But wait — is this the true "Gift of Joy"? If we only consider the financial magnitude as a measure of the "Gift of Joy," we might miss the intangibles that surrounded us on this special day.

With some of the young, we saw looks of trepidation and foreboding. Some smiles with hesitation. A grandmother figure came in with five young children — two girls and three boys. I am uncertain if they were all from the same family. The children were small, lean but not gaunt, very neat and quiet, but not reserved. They offered half smiles when wished Merry Christmas. Their eyes were opened wide, with a question about the unknown they were to experience. Although the grandmother figure was the shepherd for the children, the oldest child, a pretty little girl of 7 or 8 years, took on the role of surrogate "Christmas shopping Mom." She made certain that each in her family formed a line and that each didn’t wander from the fold as she guided them through the mysterious maze, along with the many others of her own age. Her purpose was clear and poignant, in her heart she was 25 years old; she was in charge and responsible for the wellbeing of her family for the next minutes and hours. In those brief few moments she exuded self-confidence of purpose and self-belief of mission. I watched with awe how the children responded as they moved quietly through the line.

An hour or so passed before I saw her again. The little surrogate "Christmas shopping Mom" smiled from ear to ear, her eyes sparkling, and her walk had that skip only the happiest of the young can master. She wasn’t walking toward me, but I had to step over to wish her a Merry Christmas. I was happy for her! When I reached her, she was back with her grandmother figure. I bent down and said "Merry Christmas, what did you get?" When she reached into her bag — my expectation was of a prized girly toy or a pretty garment — I was speechless when she said "Let me show you what I got for my Mom!" Here was her prized "Gift of Joy" that she wanted to share with all who would ask. I could only smile. She held up a little blue box and said, "This is what I got for my Mom and me. It is heart necklace that says ‘Mom’ and a heart necklace that says ‘Daughter’ and we can wear them together." I reached down to look closely at the shiny silver heart necklaces, but my eyes would not focus on the words. Handing the little blue box back to her, I said "Your Mom is going to be so surprised and she is going to love wearing such a pretty necklace just like yours." She smiled and turned back to her grandmother. I did not see her family leave, and I may never see them again.

Other families came through and other children with differing expressions passed by. We all smiled and laughed, as the 210 of our future finished their shopping. We witnessed many smiles reigning and many happy faces beaming. But for me the image of this little surrogate "Christmas shopping Mom" remained. God is good, and for a few moments on a rainy cool Sunday morning, our hearts were warmed.