Monday, November 26, 2007

Mission MOnday: Angel Tree!

Christmas still seems like a long way off, but I am posting this particular Mission Monday a little early because you'll need some time to get it organized.
Most children in the USA celebrate either Christmas or another gift-giving holiday in December. But there are many, many children who do not get anything, or who will get very, very small things (think Happy Meal toys) on their special holiday.
Different organizations across the country attempt to help make the holidays brighter for needy kids by creating "angel trees." An angel tree, as you may already know, is a Christmas tree, displayed in a public place, hung with paper angels or ornaments. Each angel or ornament contains a number, and the gender, age, clothing sizes, and special wishes of a needy child. People can pick an angel or ornament off the tree, and they then take the responsibility of buying a gift for that child. Some time before Christmas, they bring the wrapped gift back, labeled with the number of the angel or ornament, and leave them under the angel tree. Volunteers deliver the gifts to the families who are to recieve them.
You can usually find an angel tree in places like the local shopping mall, Wal-Mart, certain restaurants, the community center, etc.
Your mission, for this week, is to go out and find an angel tree, pick out an angel, and buy a gift for that little angel! If you have your own special children in your life, make sure you bring them along, so they can experience helping to pick out an angel, finding the perfect gifts, wrapping them, and bringing them back to the tree.
Many angel tree programs suggest that you buy an outfit or article of clothing for the child, plus one toy that the child has asked for. I like to also include a book (so many children have never owned their own book!) and maybe a pair of mittens and a hat.
Another way to help a child is to participate in Operation Santa Claus. Many post offices have a program like this. What happens is, when children write a letter to Santa Claus and put it in the US mail, it gets pulled out and separated from the rest of the mail. Then, people who want the chance to be Santa Claus themselves, can choose a letter, and answer it. Usually, answering the letter involves buying gifts for a needy child, and sending them to the child through the US mail. (I'm not sure, though, how the post office separates the "needy child" letters from the regular letters of children who are simply writing to Santa Claus because thats what they do at Christmas time!)
I don't want to give the impression that the holiday season is all about gifts, or that no child can have a good holiday without a gift. But when you buy a gift for someone in your own family, what you are really giving to them is your love: "I care so much about you that I took my time and found the perfect thing for you to make your holiday magical!" When you buy gifts for a needy child, you are telling that child, "You are so special and wonderful that, even though I don't know you, I care enough about you to have taken my time and picked out something wonderful for you, to make your holiday magical!" And, when you include the children in your life in this process, you are teaching them the importance of spreading their love to people who don't have as much as they do.
So... if you can manage to add just one extra child to your Christmas shopping list this year, send a comment to let us all know how it went for you!

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