Some kids want lots of toys for Christmas, but not these children

When I lived in Washington, DC I volunteered at a shelter for homeless families, Community of Hope. On Wednesday evenings I would join other childcare volunteers in watching a group of children, ages 3-13, while their parents were in a meeting. The shelter was an apartment building, which allowed families to be together and be safe after coming from an emergency shelter that housed two families to a room. 

Some parents had lost jobs. Others were working but could no longer afford the sky high rents in Washington, DC. Some were getting clean and sober after abusing drugs or alcohol. Others had illnesses. One recent resident had to stop working because of heart problems. (She just got the news that she's getting a new heart.) 

The kids had been through so much, from moving around to relatives' homes for short stays or living out of cars. Some had seen family possessions - including their toys - strewn on the curb after an eviction. Some of them knew way too much about drugs or what someone looks like on them. Others had lived with violence. 

When people assume that poor children dream of piles of toys, I think about how not once in three years did I hear children talk about stuff they wanted. When generous donors sponsored families at the shelter at Christmastime, the children were asked what they might like to get. I'll always remember some of those wishes: Two eleven year old girls wanted dolls. One little boy wanted a rubber duck. Another little boy just wanted something nice for his mommy.

You know who has long lists of toys they want for Christmas? Kids who have any hope of getting them. And some of their parents accuse the poor of being greedy "takers." I want them to meet children like my little friends, kids who just want everything to be ok. And then they can meet their parents, who want that even more.