I didn't expect the faces.
There was Melissa, with her long brown hair and open smile. Jason, with his big brown eyes. And Justin, all spiky-haired and standing on his head on the couch.
When I decided to adopt a family for Christmas, they were simply names written in black ink on a sheet. I knew the parents were young. They had two boys, ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. And, clearly, they were in need.
They had come to South County Outreach like many, many others, for a little help, especially this holiday season.
Families can then ask to be adopted. Individuals, families, groups and businesses fill out a form with SCO and are assigned a family to help. I came in after the deadline, so a couple of the workers there looked through computer files and a large notebook to try to match me up with someone.
I wanted a family with young kids. I thought that would help get my children enthusiastic about it. Plus, I get what little kids like, having three of my own.
There were no families left in my town, but we found one in a neighboring town. They spoke English, which was helpful, as my Spanish is not so good.
And that was it. I got their phone number and called.
E couldn't have been more excited. She said her husband has had a tough time finding steady work. She's in school to become a medical assistant.
It was the first time she'd ever done this. Same with me. But SCO had a list of suggested food items, so we went over that.
Then I asked what her kids needed.
Diapers. Shoes. Clothes.
What about toys, I asked?
The older boy loves Thomas the Train.
But she didn't really want to request anything. I have my own kids to take care of, she said. I told her that she can at least ask, and I'd see what I could do. She told me her heart was pounding so fast, she was so thankful, so thrilled.
Now all I had to do was shop. She called me back a couple days later, though, with a question: her niece and nephew's family were not adopted. Instead of buying stuff for her and her husband, could I buy for these two kids, ages 6 and 4?
Of course, I told her. So I shopped some more. And soon I realized that I'd probably spent a little more than I could afford. So I made some tough choices, but in the end, only set aside a tee shirt, some play-doh, a sweat shirt.
I decided to keep the shirt and jeans I'd bought for the dad, since E told me he never bought anything for himself, just put every dime toward things for their kids.
David went out last night and bought the food. A ham. Potatoes. Peas. Corn. Pumpkin pie. Milk. A loaf of bread. Enough for them to have a wonderful Christmas dinner, plus lots of leftovers.
We headed over late this afternoon with a bag of wrapped toys, a bag of clothes in snowman boxes, a box of 200 diapers, and all the bags of food. Sawyer contributed a baggie of his own Hot Wheels cars he no longer plays with.
E opened the door and invited me in as I set the toys next to the tree. She went to help David unload the car. And there was the grandmother, crying because of the kindness bestowed upon her family.
And that's when I saw them. These beautiful kids, excited by the strangers bearing gifts. They came right over to say hi, but didn't even ask about the contents of the bags (I don't want to guess what MY kids would've done if someone came over with presents for them).
All I could think was I wished there was more. Now that they were in front of me, no longer just names on a page, I could imagine exactly how they'd look upon opening their gifts. Would they like them? Would they smile? I hoped they wouldn't be disappointed, that they'd remember this Christmas as a happy, happy day.
E wanted to take a picture of our family, as her husband had to work and couldn't be there. Then she asked to take a picture of all the kids - including ours - in front of their white Christmas tree.
She asked us to stay and eat, but of course we didn't want to intrude in that way.
It was time to go, to let them enjoy their holiday. Before we left, Melissa, the six year-old, handed me a bag.
A gift. For us.
I hugged the mom, the grandmother, the kids.
Wished them a Merry Christmas.
It was dark now, as we loaded our kids back into the car.
We drove away, far richer than when we'd arrived.
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