Shopping for an unknown friend

First Posted: 12/2/2014

You can see it everywhere, the excitement of Christmas abounds. Colored lights dot posts in the walking park in Chinchilla. White lights sparkle on the trees on State Street in Clarks Summit. People are busy, walking quicker, smiling more. Cookies need baking. Wreaths need making. Trees need trimming. And then there is the shopping!

As Rotarians, we take our shopping seriously. We are not just shopping for members of our own family. We are shopping for children who may not have any other gifts than those provided by members of the Rotary Club of the Abingtons.

Each year the list of names of children from the North Scranton Headstart program comes to us at a regular lunch meeting at the Inn of Nichols Village. Each child is listed by first name. The age and clothes sizes are next to the name. When the children are asked by their teachers what secret present they would like, that wish is added to the child’s information. The dream wish is really the only clue the Rotarian has as to who the child actually is. We never see their faces. We only guess at how tall or small they are. It is the wish that tells us about them. We ponder the list – baseball glove, Lego sets, doll house, scooter, puppy, Dora the Explorer backpack, frozen dolls.

Many children wanted “Frozen” dolls. I had no idea what a “Frozen” doll was. So I asked the experts I know, my grandsons Cole, age 8, and Liam, age 6. They laughed at me when I asked what a frozen doll was. Everyone in their world knew exactly what a frozen doll was. They patiently explained to me that a Disney movie was out last summer and the characters were frozen. They explained that mostly girls liked “Frozen” dolls, girls much younger than they are. And so I chose a child who wanted a “Frozen” doll.

If a school grade were given out for expert shoppers, I surely would fail. I never could see the value of window shopping or just going into a store to look around. So with trepidation abounding, I went to Toys R Us to find “Frozen” doll things. The store was packed with items. But what would my chosen child really like? I could buy a month’s worth of groceries in less time than it took me to buy the secret wish of a three-year-old child. I worried that on Christmas morning she would be disappointed and her secret wish, so broad, would not please her.

I chose a few more “Frozen” items and then went on to Target to find clothing for my no-faced, but now cherished, little girl. Her shirt and pans size were listed at size 4. Did she ever wear a pretty dress? Was a dress too impractical? Dress sizes were not included on the Rotary list, but did she ever dream of herself in a pretty pink dress? I bought one. I also bought pants and shirts that could be worn to school. I brought it all home and carefully wrapped each gift, hoping it would be enough. I wondered about the rest of her family — did they have enough to eat?

There are more Headstart children in the two classes in North Scranton than there are Rotarians. Some Rotarians take more than one child to outfit. Other Rotarians who cannot shop, give money to our high school Interact Club members, who then do the buying and wrapping. No child is left behind when our Rotary members take on this project.

On the designated day, enormous packages arrive at our Rotary meeting room. They make a small tower standing in a corner. All kinds of Christmas packages, tied with elaborate bows, display the designated child’s name on the outside. Our chairman and former president, John Hambrose, has his list and checks it twice to make sure we have presents for all Headstart children, whether they are naughty or nice. The packages are then loaded into waiting vehicles and delivered to the children.

As Christmas morning approaches, I think often of the child I chose. Being a fairy godmother to an unknown small person is a wonderful feeling. Even though I will not be there to see her open her presents, even though I will never know who she is or what she will become, for those few moments as her gifts were purchased, wrapped and delivered, she was connected to me in love in the true spirit of Christmas.

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