I’ve been involved with Angel Trees for more than twenty years and I’m still astounded by the generosity of the human race. This year our church, Christ the King Lutheran in Cumming, Georgia, decided to sponsor seven families – a total of twenty children.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, we put up a tree in the lobby (officially known in Lutheran circles as a Narthex) and decorated it with angels. Each angel lists an item a child either needs or wants. For the most part, the children need clothing, but want toys.
Members of our congregation then remove various angels from the tree and go shopping.
The most difficult message I have to get across is for people to buy only what is listed on the angel. I’ve seen articles of clothing arrive with money or gift certificates stuck in pockets. I’ve also seen miracle multiplication – one shirt turns into two; one dress turns into three or four!
All is well until we sort through it all and discover that one child is receiving much more than his or her siblings. In most cases, we can use the extra items to balance out the gifts – so everyone gets a little bit more than Santa was asked to provide.
One year at St. Thomas Aquinas in Alpharetta, Georgia, we added angels for the men at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We collected gloves, sweaters, socks, blankets, and hats for our ‘friends’. When one of our parishioners saw the stacks of stuff, he decided the men would need duffel bags to carry their stuff. Off he went to the store.
That year, we filled an entire room – floor to ceiling – with the gifts that were donated by people who had no idea who would be receiving the gifts. People opened their hearts, and then willingly opened their wallets.
The Christmas season tends to affect people that way.
I used to work with a man who was born into a Jewish family. As an adult, he became an agnostic or atheist. (I can’t recall for sure what he claimed to be.) But every Christmas, he’d go shopping and buy a ton of toys for the Marine’s Toys For Tots program.
In many ways, this man demonstrated the way Christians are supposed to act, but he was especially spiritual during the Holiday season.
When we finally distribute the clothing and toys from our Angel Tree, we’ll probably be talking about merchandise valued at more than two thousand dollars. And we’re just a small church in a small town.
I would love to know the total value of the toys collected by the Marines nationwide. Then add the value of the gifts collected by all the Angel Trees at all the churches.
This is a tough economic year, and yet very few people have asked for receipts for tax purposes. They are acting from the heart… just like angels.