My dad never wore a red velvet suit. He never grew a long white beard. But he was Santa to many needy people at Christmas time.
For many years, Daddy bought and delivered hams to a financially strapped nursing home that served the poorest of the black community. He also took them some old clothes, probably his and Momma’s.
I recall one Christmas in particular when he took my sister and me to St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children to pick up two little Downs Syndrome girls. We took them shopping at Sears where Daddy worked as a department manager for a time. We bought complete outfits and some toys and then returned the little girls to St. Mary’s. I doubt we would be able to do anything like that today, what with privacy laws and perverts running amuck disguised as nice people.
|Marie showing off her new coat |
to the nuns at St. Mary's in Norfolk, Virginia
Through these small acts of charity, Daddy introduced us to worlds we had never known. What did we know of being poor, being black, being physically handicapped, having nowhere to go? But in those strange and dark worlds were people offering amazing love and care.
At Christmas especially we try to step outside ourselves for a bit to bring hope in situations that seem hopeless. Our family supports the Shoebox ministry at our church by filling two shoeboxes with toys, one for a girl and one for a boy. We also fulfill (or partially fulfill) the wish list of a foster child through Chesapeake Social Services. I like to sign up for a teenager because most people don’t want them; they prefer to buy cute toys for cute little ones. From my experience as a teacher, teens NEED that “normal” Christmas more than a child does.
I’m not trying to shine light on my good works or hold our family up as an example. It's just something we do, part of our traditions. Quite honestly, we don’t do enough. Daddy instilled in my sister and me the need to carry on the tradition, one which we hope our children will continue as well.