Chuck talks on BreakPoint today about Angel Tree--about a little family that had sunk about as low as they could go, and began the rise back into a happy, normal, family life when somebody sent Angel Tree gifts on behalf of the father, who was locked up on drug charges.
My family and I have done Angel Tree every year since I began working at Prison Fellowship 17 years ago. My once-small sons enjoyed going to the mall with me to pick out gifts for other children, and then wrapping them up. As teenagers, they bought gifts for many children as a school project.
It's not too late to send Angel Tree gifts to children this year. I encourage Point readers to do so.
Many years ago, I watched a television film called The Homecoming, the film that led to the series The Waltons. In the film, the children attend a gift giveaway for poor children, in which a missionary asks each child to recite a Bible verse in order to "earn" their present. When the youngest Walton child, Elizabeth, opens her package, she finds a doll with a badly cracked face--a doll that ought to have been thrown away intead of given as a gift.
I mention this as a way of encouraging Angel Tree participants to give quality gifts--gifts they would not be ashamed to give to their own children--or the Christ Child.
A couple of years ago, I asked our Angel Tree staff to give me five names. They gave me the names of five children in one family. It was great fun shopping for warm clothing and toys for them. After wrapping them and putting them in a pretty large box, I threw in some candy canes and other small surprises. And then I mailed it via UPS.
Many Angel Tree recipients live in unsafe neighborhoods, and so I made sure that someone would have to sign for the package rather than allowing it to be left by the front door, where it might have been stolen. I kept track of the progress of the package online. It became apparent that the UPS driver had attempted to deliver the package several times without success because nobody was there to sign for it. I feared that, in desperation, the UPS guy might just leave the package on the porch. Or possibly, the Angel Tree family had moved; I didn't want the gifts delivered to people who weren't entitled to them. I sure didn't want the gifts to arrive AFTER Christmas, because the kids would be disappointed on Christmas day.
I ended up calling the house to make sure the mother knew a box had been sent. Mom, apparently, wasn't there, but her five kids were. Unfortunately, they didn't speak English. I could hear them passing the phone around, each child saying "Hello?" but clearly not understanding a word the gringo lady was saying. Finally, one of them, very gently, hung up.
I called Roberto, who speaks fluent Spanish, explained the situation, and gave him the number. He graciously agreed to call and let the kids know a big box was on its way, but their mom had to be there to accept it.
Great excitement on the other end of the line.
I'll never meet this family, but I think of them each year at Christmas--usually when I'm buying Angel Tree gifts for other children.