In November of 2010 I was called to be the co-chair of the Service Committee for my ward. It's a tradition in my singles ward to collect money from the members and then sponsor a family for Christmas. While half of our ward is still in school, we can usually gather a least $300-400 in about two weeks. This year we collected several hundred dollars and found a family to sponsor through The United Way. We were given a family that included a single mother who was out of work and her five children (ages 12-3.) For a Family Home Evening activity we split into groups and went shopping. Thankfully, The United Way provides the gender, age, pants and shirt size, favorite color, and a gift idea list for each child (provided by the parent.) While the groups shopped, I went and picked up a gift card to Smiths for the mother. The next night my co-chair and I delivered the gifts to our family. All the kids except the oldest were in bed and we ended up giving the bags of gifts to the babysitter. It was a great experience. The next day more people donated money to the cause even though the project was over. We had so much that I knew that we could sponsor another family if there were 3 kids or less.
I emailed The United Way and received the information for another family. This family consisted of a mother and father (who was out of work) and two daughters. The paper mentioned that no one in the family could speak English. Because of this I found someone in my company who speaks fluent Spanish to call the family and let them know that I would be dropping off the gifts that evening (as it was already December 22nd.) Due to the short notice I did the shopping by myself, looking carefully at the information provided. One daughter was listed as being 9 years old and the other daughter was almost 3. Both listed Barbie and Dora as their favorite toys, which I thought was odd. I bought clothes, shoes, and a coat for each as well as some toys and books. Because there were only two children in the family instead of the planned for 3, I was able to also buy a $100 gift card for the parents. As the delivery was not scheduled to take place until 8pm, I went out to dinner with some friends. I put all the gifts as well as the gift receipts and wrapping paper into large black plastic bags and put them in my truck. I then realized that it would be difficult for me to carry everything by myself. Realizing this, I recruited Sarah and Rob to go with me to deliver the gifts
We went into a very humble looking neighborhood in Provo and eventually found the house. It was a small trailer with a ramp up one side. We knocked on the front door and it opened. A man with a kind face answered and we were ushered into a cold, dark little home. There was one light on and it couldn't have been more than 55 degrees in the house. There was no Christmas tree; only a string a Christmas lights on one wall. The father expressed his thanks in broken English and the mother expressed her thanks in Spanish. As I entered I noticed a small wheelchair behind the couch. The paper I had received from The United Way had not mentioned any sort of handicap with either child.
The parents ushered us down the hall into a small bedroom. In one corner a physically handicapped girl lay on a bed. This nine year old girl was thin and appeared to have a severe case of cerebral palsy. She attempted to speak but could not. On the other side of the room was a big bed that the parents obviously shared. As they gestured to the girl and spoke with tears in their eyes, I felt so grateful for my own life and health. Rob was able to speak to them in his own broken Spanish. They thanked us profusely and the Mother pressed a thank you card into my hand as well left.
In the car Sarah, Rob, and I sat in stunned silence for a moment. Never had I imagined that I would encounter such poverty so close to where I live. I had only seen such a humble home on tv; never in person. I was proud of our ward for raising money to help this family.
The next day I was at work thinking about the situation. I told the story to my Director of HR, describing the house and its lack of decoration. He gave me money and with a little of my own, I drove to the nearest Christmas tree lot. I bought a medium size tree that I knew would fit into the corner of their front room as well as some basic decorations and a tree stand. I paid the tree lot worker (who told me they delivered trees when needed) to deliver the tree, the stand, and the decorations to their address (which had been provided to me by The United Way.) Once again I was grateful to be surrounded by such generous people (it turns out that two of my bosses had contributed to the cause along with my Director of HR.) It was the perfect way to spend the few days before Christmas. I can't wait to do another Sub for Santa project next year.