Over the weekend, someone stole some of the most expensive toys from the Toys for Tots drop off center in Burlington.
If you don’t live around here, Burlington is kinda nice. You can tell cause while there are buses out there, there aren’t always sidewalks.
Perhaps I got so upset about this news because this Christmas is proving to be a challenge. The end of my show (I am always sad after closing, even if it is just a reading), my busted tooth, trying to get shopping done on a very very tight budget with two very active people under the age of four, and bills, bills, bills. So perhaps my inclination to burst into tears when my beloved Channel Five “Eyeopener” (me and Channel Five both start our day really horridly early) reported this is because I am stressed out.
Or perhaps it is because it really did make me sad. Authentically so.
I have never been the beneficiary of Toys for Tots. And truth be told, I have never donated to Toys for Tots. My sister has, and does every year, even after the time she got mugged for her Toys for Tots gifts while walking home from shopping.
But if there is one thing my heathen self is sure of, is that this is the season of giving. Even if you hate the holidays: you’re Aunt Clem hid your Candy Canes when you were five, you were nobody’s favorite and got slipper socks each year, your parents nag you about your divorce over the roast beef, or your brothers and sisters always seem to get in digs about how you never finished whatever it was you never finished while they zoom about in SUVs complaining about taxes, if there is one thing all of us adults can do at this time of year it is give to those who need it.
The first time I relished this idea was the first Christmas after my parents got separated. We were rather short on cash that year, and we’d been told Christmas was going to be a little tight.
A few days before Christmas my mom got paid. This was before direct deposit, so she cashed her check and we headed to the A and P that’s now Walgreens in the Heights (of Arlington). Going into the store, we stopped at the ubiquitous red kettle. We smiled at the bell guy as my mom slipped a bill in and the bell guy looked down, smiled very wide, and bellowed “Merry Christmas!”
And in we went.
Since it was pay day and Christmas we got a lot of foods we’d learned, that fall, not to ask for anymore. Things aside from what needed to go into dinner and lunches.
When we got to the check out my mom pulled out the bank envelope and gasped. An entire fifty was gone.
An entire fifty was in the barrel of that red kettle.
Which explained the enthusiastic response.
Which explained why we put back our extras.
Somewhere someone else needed that fifty more.
My mom and sisters and I think about that grocery store trip often.
And we thought of it for sure the next Christmas as we did our Christmas shopping.
If money is tight, you do your shopping in cash last minute.
So there we were, at the mall with the other poor people and the husbands.
As we left, we saw a very unusual sight for Burlington. (Yes, the aforementioned Burlington). A pan handler. Sitting right there in army fatigues (this was when wearing army fatigues had nothing to do aligning yourself with the missions of soldiers, they were what you wore if you were a little maybe funkier than others. And this guy, pan handling on a traffic island in a suburb on Christmas Eve, was a little funky indeed).
His sign said he was hungry.
He looked very young.
He had a duffel bag next to him.
It was inordinately cold. Frigid.
“Please, can we get that guy McDonalds?” we asked our mother. “Yeah, Big Macs.”
There wasn’t much else on that strip then. I think Howard Johnson’s was already shuttered at that point. So to McDonald’s we went.
When we circled back through the parking lot and dropped off those Big Macs, and apologized it was just McDonalds, I don’t think we’d ever seen a person look so hungry before. He thanked us over and over and he tore into the hamburgers. He didn’t look up, only down into the meat and bread most of the rest of us make fun of, and he ate.
So I guess I was so upset because it hurts to know it is true that someone’s heart is sizes and sizes too small. To be downright Mother McCheesy about it. There’s a very warm place, I think, waiting for that person who took the time to drive up that hill, pick that lock, and thwart the meaning of this time of year.