Preface: Most of you know that two Christmases (sp?) ago I was in my first year as a teacher and my classes "adopted" a young man and his family who were not going to have a Christmas. What my classes did was so overwhelming I have decided to make it a yearly tradition. With all that said, the last 36 hours have been a great start to the Christmas week.
This year I was beginning to panic a bit because we were approaching Thanksgiving and I did not have any names. The kids who I have had in the past in class who had me again this year began to ask when I would have stuff for them to buy for so I decided to do some digging. I went to the counselors and asked them if they had anyone in mind - I was told that they didn't know of anyone so I could try and look elsewhere. I then asked my sister, who is a elementary teacher in the area, and she said she might have someone but wasn't sure since the local Catholic church did a lot for the kids at her school.
The next day I went to a woman in my department who's husband is a pastor at a church in the area and asked her if she knew of anyone - which she did. Two boys, one is 2 and one is 7. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought we were set.
Within an hour the following happened.
I got a text from my sister saying she had a family from her school. Single mother. Basically have nothing. Not even a tree. Ages 6, 10, 11, 12. Two girls and two boys. My first thought was, "Oh shit. We have two already. This would make six. Ok... Worst case scenario, I will take care of whatever my students can't handle - maybe my sister and I will just buy for those kids instead of getting anything for one another. Yeah, that will be fine." So I told her that was cool.
A half hour or so later I got an email from one of the counselors. She also had a family - but this one hit close to me and I needed to come and see her at some point. At the end of the day I made my way to her office and she told me that the family was one I was very familiar with. One of the boys was a junior who I have had in class each year since he began his time at our school.
Jose came to me as a small and shy freshman. At the beginning of the year he barely spoke to anyone. Over the course of that first year he would come closer and closer to my desk at the end of class and by December he was basically attached to my hip.
To give some background, Jose is of hispanic descent and lives in a home with a single mother who is so physically debilitated that from what I hear from the Special Ed department he has to raise his younger brother Carlos who is 14 and is new to our school this year. He also has an older brother who is 18 but has been placed on homebound because of his "transgressions." I believe his brother will probably end up in jail at some point, but either way - he deserves a Christmas.
I will say upfront that my decision to adopt Jose and his two brothers was a very selfish one and I did it mostly because he is one of my favorite kids at the school. I know he looks at me like a father and I just couldn't let this kid down. Problem is, the past two years we have done this they have only been asked to provide for two children. This year I was asking them to take care of nine.
I wasn't even sure how to attack this whole mess because at the point that we had six I was in panic mode - but now I was really worried. Nine kids is a lot - especially considering that I try to make sure each kid gets at least 7-10 things to open on Christmas morning. Even if we only gave them 7 things, that is still 63 items total. I was 110% sure that I had screwed up and I was going to let someone down.
I admitted to my kids that I had screwed up. I told them that this year was a perfect storm - three families came to me at almost the same time needing our help. I explained that whatever they couldn't get that I would take care of because this was my mess. My only request from them was to take care of the initial two and then I would work out the rest.
My 7th period was the first to get ahold of the list from the two youngest boys. I told them they could do as much or as little as they wanted but that I had four other classes who were going to see this list so not to worry about getting it all.
One hand went up.
After 20 seconds I had 15 hands up. They decided as a group that Ethan and Donovan were "theirs." I didn't even know what to say. I told them that they were unbelievable for doing all this but if it turned out they couldn't get something to let me know.
Fast forward to the next day. 3rd period. I decided to have them look at the list for the kids at my sister's school. Again - same explanation. Do what you can - I will get the rest because I took on too much. Again - one hand. Then another. Then another. They knocked out over half the list for those four kids and then my 5th period took on the rest.
At this point there were six down - with three to go. Jose and his brothers. They were the oldest so what they wanted/needed for the most part was most expensive. My 8th period came in. Same explanation. Took care of almost everything. Said they "could handle this Mr. jakam31 - we got you."
The next day my 4th period came in and asked me where the list was - when I told them we had almost everything covered they were genuinely pissed off. So they took all three lists and tacked on to each one.
Now I know for a fact that some of these kids spent their own money from jobs on these gifts. I also know that some of them gave up gifts from their parents to get gifts for these kids. Two weeks ago, a boy named Cameron came in with two Thomas the Train toys for the 7 year old. He told me he spent all Saturday trying to track them down and finally found them at Toys-R-Us. He was so proud of himself - and he said he spent his tip money from work on them.
Early last week he told me his parents informed him there would be no Christmas at his house this year. My jaw hit the desk. I asked him to let me give him money for the toy and he said, "What? No! I had fun buying him that! That was awesome!"
Awesome? Really? You aren't having a Christmas but buying that boy his gift was awesome? No Cameron - you, son, are awesome.
A few other kids brought in stuff and asked me if they could do more. "What else?" "What do you need? I can get more." That is one word I heard a lot... "More." Difference is I heard it in a way that most adults don't hear teenagers say it. They wanted to give more. Not receive.
I don't tell most people at school what we do because there are too many clubs who ask for money from faculty members and students to do the same. I feel like broadcasting this takes away from the point of it all - to help someone is the greatest gift we can offer another person.
I don't even know that if I heard about this that I would believe it for myself.
Nine kids. Toys and clothes galore. Candy. Gum. Nintendo Wii. Air Jordans. Barbie. Winter coats. Gloves. Warm Blankets. Gift cards for the parents. I am confident that well over $1,000 was spent.
The counselor stopped in to see how the wrapping was going and just walked in and walked back out. Said she couldn't let kids see her like that. The four kids ages 6-12 mother got all the gifts today. My sister said she cried the entire time and couldn't understand why. The teacher who's husband is a pastor saw the stack and said, "Oh my lord... Oh my lord."
I can't explain how or why my kids do this. I have told them as much. They just smile and tell me "it's fun and they need our help! We got to play with toys too!"
To say I am blessed with great kids does not do them justice. I have read mkovac call them the "Hands of God" and it is so true. I thanked all of them for all that they did and they brushed it off like it was nothing. Three families of children will have Christmases because of them and they act like it was part of the course curriculum.
I do not even know how to thank them. I can only hope that God blesses them the way He has blessed me. I plan on giving them this poem at the end of the year to remind them that if we all do a little we can get a lot done. I hope anyone who comes across this says a prayer for all of them - they are my little miracles and they are proof that God does exist.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Merry Christmas - sorry for the length.