It was five days before Christmas. My elementary students were finishing up a coupon book for their parents. As I helped one of my sweet, quiet girls wrap her present, I instructed her to “put the gift under her Christmas tree” after school. Her response, “Mrs. Peddie, we don’t have a tree!” After a bit of prodding, she said,
“There’s no place for a tree in our hotel room. It’s very small. We stay at the Red Roof Inn!”
I downplayed her response, then excused myself out to the hallway where I cried. We’ve been in school for three months. This child often talks about “being poor”, but I had no idea she was displaced.
In my classroom, we are a family. We are open and honest about life things, including poverty. But, I didn’t know how dire her circumstances were.
Later that afternoon, she and I spoke again. She lit up when she mentioned gifts, and that her mom bought “two gifts” for each child! All I could think of was my tree at home, which was fully stocked with beautifully wrapped presents for every family member.
My heart broke for this child. So, I sought resources from other staff members, district administrators, my church, and my family. With the help of others, I went on a shopping spree. We purchased and wrapped EIGHT gifts for each child.
Two of my own children accompanied me to that Red Roof Inn on December 23 (after her dad consented to receive the gifts). Out of respect for the family, I’ll spare you the details of their tiny hotel room. My takeaway is that her parents are trying to create a good life for their three young kids. The father works full time, while the mother cares for the youngest child, an active three year old. The family has been living in the hotel since September, which was evident in the crammed living space.
As we pulled away from the hotel, my 14 year old daughter said,
“Mom, I don’t need ANY presents. That, what we just did, is the BEST gift I could ever receive! Knowing that we gave those precious kids an incredible Christmas is ALL I need!”
Those were my sentiments as well.
Cherish the little things in life. Your house might be old or small. Your car may need some attention. Your clothes might be worn. But, you are blessed. You have things in your life that others do NOT have. Focus on those seemingly insignificant things in your life.