Anonymous Donor

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 9.32.58 PM Here’s what I imagined: happy kids on Christmas morning, delighted to find some of the gifts they wanted. That vision helped me decide we’d sponsor a family for Christmas. As I got further into the process, it began to feel a lot less simple.

My husband and I are comfortably middle class. We have worked hard, but we have also been lucky—an accident of birth placed us in loving, hardworking families who taught us their work ethic and helped us get college degrees. We’re also healthy, again the luck of the draw, not something we can take credit for. So as I consider the single mother and three children we are sponsoring, I think: “It could have been me.” It seems only right to help them.

But I wonder about her. Was it hard for her to sign up to be sponsored? Did it hurt her pride? If it did, I suspect she set aside her feelings so her kids could have a Christmas more like other people do. Parents do that. I would.

I also wonder how Christmas celebrations in the U.S. got to be so excessive. Now, because we make such a big deal out of Christmas, the absence of gifts is conspicuous. Children who don’t get any gifts feel left out, and maybe, unloved. After all, kids just want to have fun and fit in with their friends and classmates. The mother who can’t provide a bunch of stuff has to feel bad, too—ashamed or alienated. Or maybe she gets tired of everyone else having nice things except her. I can only speculate about her life and guess at her feelings.

But I do hope that she will feel a little less alone, knowing someone else cares about her and her family, even if it is in an awkward and necessarily flawed way.