Remember that giant pile of toys/diapers/hats/gloves/socks/underwear you collected at church? Wonder where it went? I found it all at the Lutheran Child and Family Services Christmas Store!

Picture this: The Fellowship Hall at Gethsemane Lutheran was set with a maze of tables, items neatly organized into categories. (I think I recognized some items that were collected by Servants of Christ.) Each parent was allowed “points” for their children, so that kids got toys (age appropriate), socks & under-wear, hat & gloves, several stocking stuffers – and the family got a game, a household item, and a gift card.

My partner, Carolyn Konnert, used a checklist to make sure all the right things were gathered, while I carried big plastic bags to hold the treasures as parents made choices. We hosted mothers one at a time, focusing on one of their children at a time. Round and round we’d go, through the maze, until shopping was complete.

Mom #1. In her 50’s, she had adopted 4 siblings, ages 7, 6, 4, and 3. With every bag filled, there was still more to come, and this mother shed a few tears.
Me: So, how many loads of laundry do you do each week?
Mom: I just wait until I fill 5 bags, and then spend the day at the laundromat. It’s expensive!
Me: I think you are a saint for taking on four kids…
We put the bags into her car. She hugged me, and gave ME a blessing – which I’m passing on to you.

Mom #2. She looked like a teenager. Her name wasn’t on the list. She hadn’t called her social worker to get signed up. All the LCFS spots were full; she was too late for this year. Alternatives? She could dial 211 for information about other resources in Marion County.
She went away empty-handed.

Mom #3. She also looked quite young. She brought a tiny new baby in a carrier. I was thrilled to make happy faces at the baby, but Mom seemed disinterested. I think this is a sign of depression… and why not? On her list were names of 6 (six!) children – 12, 9, 7, 4, 3, and new-born. She tried to match hats/gloves, toys, and underwear for each child. Her eyes constantly scanned the tables, but she didn’t show much joy.
Me: You must be exhausted. And who’s going to bring a special gift for you?
Mom: Who knows?
I put my arm around her and carried the 5 bags to her friend’s car. She may have given me a half smile. She was tired, and ready to go.

Mom #4. She came with her sister, both attractive younger women. The sister works at a local fast-food restaurant, but this mother is raising 5 children – 12, 8, 4, and the 18 month-old twins. The sisters were delightful! They chatted happily about what each child might like, and made sure they used their points wisely. They even chose a household item that could double as a Christmas gift for their own mother.
Me: What are you women up to today?
Mom: My sister just got off work, and we are here for Christmas shopping.
Me: You look happy.
Mom: Yes, ma’am!
Mom’s sister: (In a whisper, which I overheard.) Why don’t stores offer more dolls with darker skin and curly hair? That look like us?
Me: (Wow, I never even thought about that… I was speechless…)

They kept thanking me – which I am also passing along to you. For your generosity. For remembering “the poor.” For taking time to purchase gifts. For supporting LCFS. For bringing good news to some people in need.

I had a lovely time. I learned something. And I’m pretty sure Jesus was there, giving US a blessing.

Deaconess Diane Marten – December 12, 2017