Santa’s Little Helpers

I have always been of the mindset that if you can help others, you should. My parents raised my siblings and me to be helpful and generous, and I have tried to instill that in my children as well.

Life has not always been easy for our little family. My ex-husband and I struggled a lot in the early days of our marriage, and there were many times we had to choose whether we paid a bill on time or we put food in our childrens’ mouths. There were a couple of years we couldn’t really afford to buy Christmas presents; one year we were so poor that my ex-husband’s commander for his Army unit donated a Christmas tree to us and put our kids’ names on the Angel Tree at the local PX so they would get Christmas gifts. When the kids and I first moved back to Missouri after my divorce, times were very hard for the first couple of Christmases and we were very blessed by family and close friends to make sure we were taken care of. However, in those situations, I cannot tell you the range of emotions I felt. As a parent, you always want to make sure your children never have to go without, and when you can’t provide things for them it makes you feel like the biggest failure in the world. Holidays are supposed to be happy, but it’s really hard to be happy when you’re stressing over whether or not you can afford to put gifts under the tree for your kids. Like most kids, my children love Christmas and always get so excited to see what Santa brings them on Christmas morning. No, Christmas gifts aren’t a necessity, but when all the kids come back to school talking about the cool stuff they got for Christmas, you never want your child to be the one wondering why Santa or their parents didn’t bring them anything. But the feeling you get when someone helps you in times like that is the true spirit of Christmas; it’s warm and full of love, wonder, and hope.

We have been blessed to have wonderful family and friends (and even strangers!) who have always helped us when we needed it, so anytime we have been in the position to help others, I teach my kids that it’s important to give back. Even if it’s something a small as paying for the person behind you in the fast food line, you never know how much your small act of kindness can help someone or touch their life. A few years ago, times were tough at Christmas and a friend told me about a wonderful community on Reddit called Santa’s Little Helpers. It’s a community where people who are struggling can register to be helped, and tons of generous gifters, or Santas, send gifts to the families in need. The way it works is you register through a special secure site with your kids’ names, ages, sizes, etc. You set up a special Amazon wishlist where you can add items for your children, and once your registration is approved by the moderators, you post in the Reddit community and wait to see if someone gifts you. There is a pretty great process the moderators use to verify people’s identities to avoid scammers and things, too, so even though there are a couple of hoops you have to jump through to register, it’s definitely worth it. I registered us as a family in need a few years back, and the kids were blessed by a couple of different people; they got everything I had put on their wishlist! The next year, we were in a much better place financially, so the kids asked if we could give back to one of the families in the community. It was so much fun for us to go through the posts and pick a family to gift, and we ended up gifting two different families with items from their wishlists. As a Santa, gifting is totally free and optional; you can join and read through the posts and pick who you’d like to bless. If you don’t think someone is as needy as someone else, that’s fine; you choose who you want to gift. For now, Sawyer still believes in Santa Clause so when we “play Santa” for one of these families, I just tell him we’re helping Santa and the elves to make sure everyone gets something nice for Christmas. He absolutely loves it, and I love how excited he gets to help me choose gifts for kids who need them.

It means a lot to me to get the kids involved in gifting, and it warms my heart to see how much joy they get from it. I love buying gifts for others, and it’s something I’ve instilled in my kids as they’ve grown up; they love trying to find meaningful gifts for everyone they buy for. This holiday season, I encourage you and your family to give back. If it’s not through Santa’s Little Helpers, maybe through a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or church outreach. I realize not everyone can afford to buy extra gifts, but it costs nothing to be kind, and if you’ve never been in a situation where you needed help from others before, you have no idea how much your kindness and love can help someone in need.

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