CHILDREN RUSH DOWN ( A LEGACY LETTER)
This letter was written when I worked in the Domestic Violence Shelter. Christmas was so special that year because my two son-in-laws, my youngest daughter, and one grandson were allowed unprecedented permission to be Santa’s elves and help me make after hours deliveries to the Confidential location for the Shelter for families.
For over an hour after their arrival at the shelter, they traversed three flights of stairs making sure that each apartment received gifts for their families. No elevator there. Being in “stealth mode” due to the sleeping children was very important. Dripping with sweat but very happy, it was a wonderful sharing of the Christmas spirit and the conspiratorial nature of having to keep the secret. Even my young grandson Jared understood that to keep the families safe meant keeping that secret location “a secret“.
I wrote this account of that night’s events for a Holiday Letter contest for our local paper. It is as follows:
HOLIDAY LETTERS: Children Rush Down
My favorite time of the holidays is that magical time when all the children have gone to bed at the Domestic Violence Shelter. Only Santa knows the confidential location and he always arrives with perfect timing when the last child has shut his eyes. I love that he also surprises the moms who think they won’t have anything, and actually some haven’t had even one gift in years. Early Christmas morning there are moms trekking to the office; they stammer thanks, show surprise, and shed tears. The children rush down to tell me that they are so relieved because, despite all my assurances, they were sure Santa would not find them.
Unexpected “heroes” make this possible, like the skinny 16-year-old who volunteered to help load gifts despite owning no coat, gloves, or hat. The CEO who arrived Christmas Eve at the agency headquarters in a Corvette to cover the last-minute admission of a family who needed gifts. He shopped himself to assist Santa.
Embarrassed, there was the mom who had told her kids there was no such thing as Santa but then got up in the middle of the night, saw all the gifts, and asked to have paper to make a Christmas tree to put them under. She had no idea there would be so much.
Very dear were the clients who stood in awe when the snow started exactly at midnight and said, “It figures, because this is a real Christmas.”
WHY SO MUCH? ( A LEGACY EDITORIAL LETTER )
This is a guest editorial I wrote on behalf of the Domestic Violence Program I worked with, in response to getting gifts for the Family Domestic Violence Shelter. It also is in response to the over abundant gift giving we had which took truck loads to the shelter and left us enough “left overs” to provide birthday gifts for the shelter children for a year. (Santa said it would be okay). We were able to also serve some families that had been in shelter but were able to leave and start re-establishing homes, but had no means for a Christmas.
(Editorial) WHY SO MUCH ?
The question asked long ago in “Miracle on 34th Street” appeared again in the gift-laden room last Saturday where we sat feverishly wrapping packages. The question “Is there a Santa Claus?” was rephrased as, “Why so much?”
It wasn’t to provoke a debate about commercialism. It was simply a statement borne of amazement. Surrounded by mounds of toys, clothes, and household items donated by a generous Q-C population, the astonished questioner was overcome.
Just then the door opened and Davenport Police Sgt. Bruce McKee walked in with another armful of gifts. This was the fourth delivery from the NorthPark Mall collection organized by Sgt. McKee. Policemen, known to dread domestic violence calls due to their danger to officers, and counselor-advocates, who often push the officers on behalf of their clients, were spending a whole day freezing together on common ground to collect toy donations for children served by Family Resources Violence Intervention and Counseling Services.
As gifts grew into colorful towers, the question was blurted out not in judgment, not in rejection, and not as a result of a belief system. “Why so much?” simply begged the question, “Is the giving so great because people care so much? Or love so much? Or have so much? Do people need so much to know love at Christmas?”
Some felt it was an expression of caring to let the victims know we can’t always stop domestic violence, but we do care it has happened to them. Some felt the victims need the “magic” of at least one memorable Christmas. Others felt it could be tinged with guilt on the part of the givers, and need on the part of the receivers.
The questioner started to answer her question by relating the wish expressed by one client that day “just to be in a safe place with my children.” But the bottom line is this. In the year of a tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the eyes of love still fell on the hidden tragedy of pain inflicted on domestic violence victims.
Special thanks to Sgt. Bruce McKee and the Davenport Police Association and Union who organized and ran the toy collection. We also salute the employees and volunteers of Family Resources who made the wrapping and distribution of gifts possible, and finally, the families who inspire us as they continue to strive to heal and regain control of their lives.