It is that time of year again when we hit the malls and/or the Internet in search of gifts for our loved-ones-a tradition that has been around for generations. It is a time that should be filled with happiness, but too often ends in a lot of stress and sometimes hurt feelings. So, years ago, my family decided to make a change and unknowingly began a family legacy.
Seventeen years ago my sister, Gina, asked our family (parents and 4 kids at the time) if we would like to use the money that we would normally use to buy each other Christmas presents to “adopt” a family. We all agreed, and the legacy began. For the past seventeen years we supplied everything from presents to food to a tree with all of the trimmings to a family who could not afford to do it on their own. Sometimes we were able to sponsor two families and many times we adopted the same family for multiple years in a row. It was a lot of work, but we were able to give each other what we really wanted-time together! Every year we shopped for our adopted family and had a wrapping party together. In fact, our rule is that you cannot buy a gift without another family member present! While I appreciate our time together, I cannot express how thankful I am for the people we have met and their inspirational stories.
The families we met were not people who wanted a hand out, but a hand up. For example, one single mother, after we helped her for about 4 years, asked us to find another family because she was doing well. Later she paid it forward by adopting a family herself! Similarly, the family who we helped in recent years asked us to find a new family last year because they moved their family of seven from a trailer to their first house. So, we did, and this year our new adopted family is insisting that we all stay at their home for a home-made Mexican feast when we drop off their gifts. My point is there are many deserving, grateful people out there who would love and appreciate your help.
This December my family-all eighteen of us now-will be running around Kohl’s, Christmas lists in hand, participating in the most rewarding shopping spree of the year. I look forward to again watching my shoe-loving 4-year-old pick out shoes for a child who can’t afford new ones. I am anxious to hear my 13-year-old niece, Catherine, again ask, “When are we shopping for our adopted family?” instead of “Are we going to adopt a family this year?” (There is a huge difference in those two questions.) I anticipate, for the third year my 20-year-old niece, Maddie, who has participated in this tradition since she was 3, donating her own money to the pool, thus assuring the custom’s passing to the next generation. I encourage you to start this legacy with your family and friends. I haven’t received a Christmas gift from my parents or siblings for seventeen years, and I don’t miss it one bit. I promise you won’t either!