Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Community Service Crack

As the advisor of our Peer Helping club at school, I get the annual opportunity to oversee our school's Adopt-an-Angel program. We have a community-support organization based on our campus, and they refer families who have contacted them for assistance over the course of the school year. They reach out to the families and ask them what their children would like for Christmas. Then we put these anonymous requests out to the students and staff of our school. In theory, they purchase the gifts they have chosen and return them in a timely manner so that we can sort them by recipient and family and deliver them in time for Christmas. The operative words here are "in theory." Because that is not what actually happens.

Most people do, in fact, follow through. Kids whose families are barely paying their bills go out and purchase gifts for even-less-fortunate families. Alumni who are just getting on their feet financially message me and bring gifts. I am always touched by the generosity of these people.

And then there are the things that actually happen. The people who buy the gifts but lose the tags, so we don't know who the gifts are for. Others wait until the last minute to return the gifts so that we are left wringing our hands, wondering if we will have to send away a child without a gift. And then there are those who just don't purchase the gifts at all, which would have been fine if they had never taken the tag to begin with. Somebody else would have bought that gift!

But the thing is, for every absent-minded, or tardy, or just irresponsible person who causes the annual rise in my blood pressure, there are many more who step in and fill the gaps. There is the alumna from the Class of '64 who wants to know what she can do to help, and provides a box full of towels for a family. There is the teacher who forgot, but comes back just in time with not only his gifts, but two sets of pots and pans for two other families. There is the teacher who is fostering and comes in with extra gifts that were given to her kids, but that they just didn't want or need. There is the student who just wants to help and shows up with a baby blanket. There are alumni who live too far to help, but send money or blankets or backpacks. And there are the many teachers who don't have time to shop, so they happily give us their cash so we can fill in the missing pieces. Somehow, magically, it all comes together.

Adopt-an-Angel is community service crack. I want to quit. I need to quit. It's NOT good for me. But that moment when little Naomi sees the piles of gifts for her family makes all of the stress worth it. The beauty of the end result outweighs all of the disappointment and confusion and stress. And that is why I keep coming back for more.

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