I still have several minor Christmas to-dos: a couple of people will stop by my house for cookies pickup, I still need to wrap two presents which will be delivered after Christmas, and I still didn’t pack for my holiday adventure. Nevertheless – today is a quiet evening, and I feel very satisfied with what I’ve done this season.
All the things I’ve done are the ones I love to do, things which are an integrala part of my Christmas, and which I do not want to do in a hurry or just for the sake of them being checked. There are two charities which I am doing every year for the holidays: the Secret Santa for Chicago public schools and “Adopt a family” at the Palatine township.
Secret Santa I am participating is probably much like any other Secret Santa project in the US; it’s just that I know people and have seen all their activities expanding. I am doing it for nine or ten years. For the first several years, they also asked us to write the kids the letters from Santa. From myself and Anna, it was the most enjoyable part, but I guess not all of the donors were up to that, so later we were only asked to buy the gifts.
There are always some interesting letters. Once a boy asked for the real dinosaurs, and we bought him a dinosaurs book and a toy dinosaur, and write a letter from Santa asking to practice the dinosaur care first. I remember how I cried when a girl from the family shelter asked for “a bag to carry my stuff around.” I remember the thank you letters, where the kids would write that they had “the best Christmas ever.”
For this program, the donors are limited by $35-$40 per child; all presents are opened in the classrooms, and the program coordinators are trying to avoid comparison. It becomes a challenging task, especially when the kids also ask for clothing, but I learned to be creative and to shop for good prices.
This yeat, one of the letters read: I want this and that, and actually, I want a real puppy, but I know Santa you can’t get it for me, so a toy puppy on the leash will do!
I like that this program starts very early in the season, and you can shop avoiding the crowd. But this year, this same fact presented an extra challenge for me: I had to shop for the presents before the conference and the training. But in the end, I was able to put some thoughts into it, and package everything nicely, and deliver to the only gift collecting points in the Loop.
As for “Adopt a Family,” I did it the first time in 2000 when I felt that so many people helped me, that I need to give back. It turned out it was too early. Having to buy presents for one more family in addition to mine, spending $75 for each family member was over my budget. I returned to this program several years later, and my kids took the most active part in our gift giving. Maybe, next Christmas I will share some of our old stories, but now I just wanted to say that this program is equally important to me. It allows me to give back to my community, which helped me a lot when I first came to Palatine.
This year, as always, I discussed all the gifts with Anna, and they arrived on time and were ready for delivery. For several years now, the program asks for the gift cards for adults in the family, “to purchase food and necessities,” and I always feel sad that I am not allowed to add anything personal for adults. I would love to add it 🙂