As I drove up to our Angel Tree warehouse this morning, I saw families standing in a single file line outside of the main entrance. The line wrapped around the side of the building and as I pulled in, the tears fell.
See, these folks aren’t camping out in hopes of capturing a Taylor Swift concert ticket or making it to stand in front of the famous judges of American Idol in hopes of their dreams coming true. These are folks who are standing in line, in plain view of every car that passes by just so they can register their children for Christmas assistance. They leave pride at the door when they step into the warehouse and wait patiently for their number to be called. Then, when it’s their turn, make their way to the available table and within minutes, their life is spread out onto the white plastic surface where a volunteer busily writes down the families information, their needs and a wish.
There are so many scenarios, so many stories to be had as each family is interviewed. A grandmother, in her 70’s with cancer, raising 7 grandchildren, a single mom with 2 children who just lost her job after 9 years with the same company because of downsizing. Single dads who are struggling to pay the bills and meet the needs of their kids. It’s easy to get caught up with what is happening in our lives, the obstacles we may be facing, the uncertainty of our own relationships, jobs and future. Yet, amidst what we’re going thru, we have the ability to focus on the needs of others, to place their needs ahead of our own. We have the ability to show compassion and empathy to our brothers and sisters who are hurting versus stereotyping or judging their circumstances.
The Angel Tree program here at The Salvation Army is designed to reveal hope to those who do not sense its existence in their lives. It’s there to show them that perfect strangers do care and are willing to help make their Christmas a little brighter. And as each family sits in the metal chairs we provide at every table, awaiting their yellow form which details the pick up date for their children’s presents, we take a moment to look them in the eyes and ask how we can pray for them today. We take their hands in ours and together we ask God for favor, for a blessing in their lives and for necessary strength to get thru this difficult time and overcome! The Angel Tree is more than a program, it’s a ministry for us, an outreach….because it’s all about “Others!”
I Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”