Column: Residents give joy and hope to others with gifts, generosity

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 25, 2005

Debbie Irmen, Tribune Editor

Majs. Bob and Margarett Miles of the Salvation Army told the charity’s advisory board we had to see the room of toys to truly understand the community’s generousity. They weren’t kidding.

As I stood looking at the tables piled high with toys and games, I also noticed the full boxes packed under each table, and couldn’t help getting teary-eyed because I knew what heartfelt joy a great many parents would experience for the chance to give their children presents this Chrstmas.

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A long time ago, when my kids were probably about 4 and 2 years

old, I was a single mom with no hope of getting my kids Christmas presents.

I had cried about it, prayed about it, and finally, resigned myself to accept the reality of my situation &045; I simply wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase even one present for my two babes. It was a horrible feeling.

Thanks to so many Albert Lea residents and businesses &045; large and small &045; about 400 parents who couldn’t afford presents this year for their children, will be allowed to shop the Salvation Army’s toy shop. The 400 families represent about 700 kids who will have a few presents to open on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

The most cynical of people might say kids don’t need anything &045; Christmas has become too commercialized. But the custom of gift-giving stems from the gift God gave to all humanity &045; his only son.

Close to Christmas all those years ago, an unexpected knock sounded on my door. Standing there with gift certificates in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other, was the pastor of my church.

He told me an anonymous donor had given money to the church to be shared with families down on their luck that year.

All I could do was cry as comprehension hit me: my kids would have a gift or two to open.

If you have ever faced the holiday season with no money to give your kids a gift to open, you will know the heartbreaking anguish. You will also understand the soul-deep joy that comes because of the generousity of others.

I vowed then and there to give to other families in need at Christmas time, when and if my circumstances changed.

My situation did change for the better and as my children grew older, we took names from the Angel tree and shopped for presents for others. I told them the story of that and why we did it &045; because someone who didn’t know us cared that families

with few financial resources had a merry Christmas.

Those shopping expeditions far outshine any others I’ve experienced over the years. I still find a way to give to a family but

now my husband and I do it together.

Standing in the toy room at the Salvation Army last week I was immediately transported back in time. I felt the overwhelming relief and happiness a great many parents will feel knowing they could give their little ones presents.

Because of your willingness to help others, they have hope. As one who knows how much that means, let me add my thank you on behalf of those families and children for giving of your good fortune.