Almost the sweetest part of the holiday season was the opportunity to be of small service to a single mother. On Christmas Eve, she posted on Freecycle that she was unemployed due to cancer treatments, that her daughter’s father had left suddenly, and she was trying to put together some sort of Christmas for her 3 year old girl. In whatever transition had just happened, she had lost her box of ornaments, and had only a fake tree with lights to put up. She had no money for gifts. On short notice, I didn’t have a lot on hand, but I offered to come by with a couple of new stuffed toys and an unopened children’s puzzle that I had, plus some of our extra ornaments, a box of tea, candy, and some gingerbread that my daughter had made. She replied that she would be very grateful.
We drove over to a part of Oakland with narrow streets and small houses with bars on the doors. I texted that we were out front. I happened to have brought a wreath with bells on it, and we could hear the mother coming from the side of the house and saying, “I think some of Santa’s helpers are here”, so I started jingling the bells, we heard a joyful squeal, and out came running the most beautiful little girl with long, brown hair, so excited and jumping up and down. In my mind, I had made up a whole explanation of who we were and why we were there, but it didn’t matter at all to her. The explanation of our being Santa’s helpers bearing presents was sufficient for the girl, and she excitedly opened up her gift, gave the teddy bear a big hug, named the small stuffed dog “Marshall”, and recognized Princess Elsa on the puzzle. She examined each of the ornaments with interest , and at her mother’s prompting said a heartfelt “thank you” for everything. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed that it was so little — just some stuff we had around the house. That little girl’s joy was at least as much of a blessing to us as we were to her.