Tonawanda News — Two days after I witnessed, for the first time, the festival of generosity and holiday spirit that is the culmination of the Tonawandas’ annual Rockin’ With Santa campaign, we got a call at the office.
Community editor Barbara Tucker took it, then referred it to me. On the other end of the line was Major Celestin Nkounkou of the local Salvation Army, and I swear I could hear the distress in his voice.
Salvation Army personnel had taken a truck to pick up an expected donation of toys, he said, only to find out that the agency donating those toys hadn’t realized they were coming. All the donations were gone. And there were only five days until distribution, when the Salvation Amy will give families in need an extra holiday helping hand of food, clothing — and toys.
There are families with children who might not get Christmas gifts now, Nkounkou said. Could the people of the Tonawandas perhaps see what they could do to help?
When the story link was posted on Facebook, most of the reaction was as I expected. Positive and generous and capable of renewing my personal faith in humanity. But then, of course, someone just had to type out those oh-so-merry, festive words: “Get a job.”
OK. Let’s ignore, for the moment, that there are lots of reasons someone could be out of work in this economy. Let’s ignore the fact that jobs do not precisely grow on trees these days. And the fact is, plenty of people who have a job today still have to worry about things such as, oh, I don’t know, putting basic food on the table and paying their heating bills before they can try to eke out a little extra for Christmas gifts.
Let’s put all that aside.
People. We are talking about children here. Kids. At Christmastime.
Kids who have been hearing and seeing and talking and just generally immersed in Santa Claus and carols and Rudolph and images of running down the stairs to see brightly wrapped presents under the tree for weeks (months?) now.
They don’t know why money’s been tight. They don’t know that Dad has been studying the checkbook for days for see where she could possibly squeak out a couple bucks for a toy car, or a doll, or a few games. They don’t know that Mom has been going without lunch at work to save a little bit more for a slightly more-than-basic Christmas dinner.
They only know that, if they’re good, Santa Claus is supposed to come on Christmas Eve.
To a child, that’s how it works. They don’t know about layoffs and CEO bonuses and hospital bills and the rising cost of groceries. They do know that all their friends will be talking about that new doll or game or action figure or gadget that Santa brought ... and what did they get this year?
Do you really think most parents want to rely on the kindness of strangers for their children’s happiness on Christmas morning? Sure, some do. Not not most. Like anyone else, they would much prefer to go pick out exactly what their children wrote out so carefully on their lists to Santa, not to take their chances with what someone with a heart slipped into the toy donation bin after doing their own shopping one day.
But you do what you have to do. And if accepting that helping hand means your kids won’t be disappointed on Christmas morning ... well, you’d do it. I would, too.
I guess, for me, it all comes down to this. In buying a few extra toys, you have the power to make a child’s Christmas happier. (And probably their parents’, as well.) To make that childhood Christmas spirit, that feeling of magic and hope and goodwill, last just a little bit longer.
And the world needs more of that.
The Salvation Army needs any donations of new, unwrapped toys for children ages 1 to 12 or so by Friday afternoon, to be able to sort them and get them ready for distribution Sunday. Toys can be brought to the agency’s office at 46 Broad St., in the City of Tonawanda. For more information, you can call the Salvation Army at 693-3110.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.