Ah. Children. So innocent yet smart beyond their years. I don't even know where to start with this one....maybe from the beginning would be best.
If you remember, or if you have been around long enough, you will remember awhile back in the Summer when we moved. I hated the house and pretty much everything else about where we moved. But it has slowly gotten better. I am still not a fan but it's not permanent so it's all good. Hoping to find a house by the new year back where we lived before.
Shortly after school started in August, we got some neighbors. A single mom with 4 kids to be exact. I didn't see them much and didn't really hear from them much except when I heard her randomly screaming profanities at them. Now I know...I shouldn't go there. I'm not the judge. I am not Mommy of the year. There's just something unsettling about hearing a Mom scream at her small children to "Shut the "F" up" to me. But hey, it's not my business right?! If parents want to scream and curse at their children, that's their choice...not mine. I personally don't treat my kids that way but that's because I wasn't raised that way. I was raised to believe you should nurture your children. Encourage them. Love them. Even if my family wasn't affectionate, there was still lots of love.
Fast forward now to just a couple of weeks ago when a new boyfriend moves in with the neighbor lady. Now the Mom doesn't have to take the kids to a babysitter while she works odd hours so the kids are home all of the time except during school hours. So we see the kids a lot. A ton actually. They are waiting on my porch when we pull in every day from picking our kids up from school and they hang around until dark. They randomly walk into my house (without knocking) and yet I can't scold them because I feel sorry for them. They are always dressed very poorly and they are forced to play outside every hour of daylight. Not that I am against making your kids play outside....but to force them to stay outside for hours on end is excessive to me. Once again, not my business, right?! I have never seen any interaction between the kids and the Mom except screaming...they just play outside alone all the time.
So I see the younger little girl the other day and I immediately think to myself, "I have clothes that will fit her." So I go through my daughters things and weed out anything I have that will fit her and I give them to her. One of her older sisters pops her head in my door and says, "If you have any clothes that are too big for Emma, I will take them." So I go back inside and find my tub of clothes that I have for Emma that she can't wear yet and I go through them and give to the older girls. It made me cry as I watched her run home like it was Christmas. She came back over 6 times that evening....each time in a different outfit. That made me feel like a million bucks.
Funny how something so small to us can be something huge to kids like them. They have a little boy Joshua's age so I went ahead and went through his stuff too. I sent each kid home with a new backpack full of goodies (because I noticed the older girl carrying a bookbag with someone elses name on it) and I felt really good like I had really made a difference in their lives. One of the little girls said "Mrs. Lewis, thank you so much. I really love all of these clothes." One of the Mom's from our son's ball teams even gave me a bag of clothes to give to them this week. It probably is like Christmas...we gave 4 kids whole new wardrobes.
You see, I believe children like them will remember someday those who treated them well and those who turned their backs on them because they were "dirty kids." You know, sadly in our society, those children will suffer their whole lives. It's not their fault their Mom doesn't take care of them but they will be the one's to suffer for it. They will be laughed at and made fun of because their clothes aren't nice or because they don't have the nice things that other kids have. Kids are mean. It's ok to be poor.....sometimes your circumstances are bad and you can't dig yourself out of the hole you might be in....but when I see a parent who can afford to smoke and drink but can't afford to get their kids a pair of shoes....that bothers me. But at least I can rest easier now knowing they DO have nice clothes to wear to school. I have seen them wearing all of the clothes we gave them. That makes me feel good.....really good. Even if the Mom never once said Thank you to me, that's ok. It wasn't about her. It was about those children. I see her outside a lot and she never even glances my way.
So fast forward again to this week. Emma comes inside very very upset. "Mommy, why would Santa ever skip someone's house?!" Hmmm. Think Sarah. Think I didn't know what to say. So I asked her why she would ask me that. So she tells me that the oldest girl told her that last year Santa skipped their house. Their Mom told them it must have been because they were naughty. That's the only reason Santa would skip their house. Their Grandma bought them some socks and shoes. That was their Christmas last year Emma told me. And then she said the kids Mom told them that it looks like Santa will probably skip them this year too. I can't imagine those kids being naughty. They are very polite and well behaved, even if they do drive me crazy. I blame that on lack of Parenting though. They all call me Mrs.Lewis and they thank me a dozen times every time I give them something. The other night I made cookies and sent Emma out with a plate...I heard the oldest girl say, "Emma, you are so lucky to have a Mom who does stuff like that for you guys." And that didn't make me feel good. It made me feel sad. Sad because they are just one family out of how many who have children who suffer. Children who don't get any attention. Probably no hugs or kisses. Probably no "I love you" or "I'm proud of you." Ever.
I am very close to someone else who had a childhood like this. Left home alone all of the time. Never shown any affection or attention. Abused. Beaten. Neglected. Left home with no food to eat for hours at a time. Sent to school with dirty clothes. Holes in shoes. No socks. The stories make me sick. They make me sad. Sad because parents don't know what they are doing to their kids. Most of those kids grow up with problems. Some are able to grow from it and break the cycle. Others live with lifelong depression and feelings of worthlessness because of it. Even though they pretend they don't, deep down some of them have extreme hatred for their parents. Hatred because what they did when they were children forever altered their life. When I hear stories from their childhood, I cringe. I cringe because no child should have to live that way. No amount of money or gifts will ever make up for that.
So over my dead body will Santa miss my neighbors house this year. I can guarantee Santa will come to their house this year. Even if it means that an anonymous person has to drop off a box of toys on their porch on Christmas Eve....Santa will bring those kids toys this year. Why?! Because I can't stand the thought of kids not having presents to open on Christmas morning. Why?! Because kids should go to bed on Christmas Eve and be excited to wake up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought. I know Christmas is overcommercialized now. We focus too much on the "things." But every child should have Christmas. And if that means I have to take money out of my own pocket to buy them or to take toys out of my own kids gifts to make sure they have a Christmas, that's what I will do.
I spent the past 5 years as the Director of a non-profit ministry called Project Hope. Project Hope helps needy families during the Holidays. For 5 years I have gotten to see kids faces light up because they had presents. It's so rewarding. And even more rewarding when they don't know it was you.
If you have a chance to do something nice for a child, do it. Even if it means just smiling at them and paying attention to them. You wouldn't believe all of the hugs I get when I walk down my kids hallways at school...kids I don't even know.....just because I take the time to pay attention to them....acknowledge their existance. That's all some kids are looking for. You could be their hero and not even know it. You could be their hope that makes all of the difference in their world. In their life.