Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Giving

During the holiday season, our building "adopts" a needy family.  In past years we have shared this opportunity with the therapy department.  It always includes some modest requests such as pajamas or a specific toy or two for the kids, perhaps a jacket, winter hats and gloves, jeans and other necessary items.  Occasionally it will include such things as shampoo, soap, toilet paper.  We always donate either gift cards or foods to provide the makings for Christmas dinner.  The hospital provides the turkey to all the Christmas families. 

Last year, it was decided that we would also donate gits and food items to one of the community's elder citizens.  Slippers, nightwear, a sweater, gloves were some of the items.  We found out that the recipient also had a cherished elderly cat so we included cat food.

I don't know how it went horribly wrong this year.  We have not one, but THREE families, and no elder citizen.  Each of these families has three kids, most of whom are teens.  I would love to know how these families were screened or chosen. 

Our employees started asking about the needs list weeks ago.  It finally went up December 1 after it took 4 phone calls to one of the families to get sizes and specifics.  FOUR.  Sherry said that the husband talked about being suicidal during two of her calls.  The list of wants and needs included such things as:
Ugg Boots
Abercrombie T shirts
4x pants
Leather gloves
Movies, a laptop computer, and a snowboard.

Really??  This has gotten completely out of hand.  There is also the Christmas dinner to provide for with check-off sheets for each family; each of these lists is a full sheet of paper long.  There are about 27 employees in the building, and most of us have been forced to curtail our own Christmas madness. 

The Christmas project is a Big Deal to Ellen; she loves to provide as many needs as she can off the list, it gives her tremendous joy.  But this year poor Ellen is beside herself. She took me aside and tearfully said she was having a lot of difficulty with the enormity of the list because she just didn't have the money to give this year.  I know Ellen lives from paycheck to paycheck but she would never in a million years consider herself as a person in need of anything. She was proud that she managed to turn a jar of spare change into 23.98 when she found herself broke two days before payday and needed gas and a few groceries, and to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.  She gives and gives and gives, and then she'll check the couch cushions for spare change so she can give more, using her last buck to buy flour to make cookies for someone's birthday.  I stick a $20 in her purse every now when I think I can get away with it. 

How can you tell such a giving person that these are less needs than demands?  I don't care how needy you are, I would never ask for anything for myself if it meant that my kids would have to go without warm clothes, or a pair of boots, or have absolutely nothing under the tree.  I used to think that any parent would think that way.  What a chump I am.  I guess it is what we  have allowed as a society, to encourage people to grab for what they can with both hands.  When it comes to Christmas giving the magic is gone when people who are identified as those being in need of the basic necessities of life have no problem shooting for the stars and hoping to land on the moon.

I haven't had a problem with the Christmas project before now, so I hope you'll excuse the humbug attitude this year.  There is a BIG difference between "needs" and "gotta haves" when everyone else is tightening their belts.  I guess I'm just a terrible person.