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Mommy's Little Hostess(es)

We had our Angel Tree party volunteer
time, and I can say it was a success on many levels.

Our church offered to pull together gifts and a party for a local
Head Start class, and Maddie and I selected a little girl and got a
gift for her last week. When the party organizer told me we could
come volunteer at the event, I jumped at the chance for Maddie to
see charity and compassion at work – to see the face of the
little girl she’d “helped”.

I was only a little hesitant at going to the event; bringing an
18-month-old and a 3-year-old to a party is not always the wisest
course, especially when the party’s not for them. But Maddie
and I talked about the party, and I explained it was our chance to
give a fun party for other people and make other kids feel good for
a while. She seemed ok with that, so we went ahead. And I’m
really glad we did.

On one purely selfish level, the day was a
success because it got Maddie to look at school in a whole new
light. She’s recently announced that she’s never going
to school because she’s afraid of the big kids, and because
she is worried she’ll miss me. So having the chance to walk
around a preschool classroom and see all the fun things they do was
a huge help in winning my side of the argument. Maddie was a bit
nervous walking into the elementary school – she was
concerned about being so close to the “bigger (read:
10-year-old)” kids. But when she saw the Head Start
classroom, saw the toys and play kitchen and backpacks hanging
neatly on the wall, she became intrigued. Then she got to watch
twenty kids interact with each other and their teacher for an hour,
and saw it’s not so bad to do the school thing. So for that
reason alone, I’m grateful for the party.

But on the more important, altruistic level, Maddie saw how good
helping others can make you feel. I was worried when we arrived and
saw that first on the party agenda was decorating cookies; Maddie
loves her some frosting and sprinkles, and her eyes bugged out at
the array of decorations. “Mommy, can I please decorate a
cookie too?” she asked, and my heart sank. I gently reminded
her that we were here for the other kids, to give them a wonderful
party, not for her. “But maybe there will be enough left
over?” she pleaded, and I reminded myself that she’s
only three. “If there are any left over after the party, you
may decorate one,” I said, and warned, “But there may
not be and you have to be okay with that.” And she was.

As the children waited outside, Maddie set out placemats and chef
hats for each child. She organized the juice boxes into a perfect
rectangle (unasked, I should add) and wanted to know the name of
each child receiving gifts. She and Cora both filled the
children’s stockings, putting big fistfuls of loose candy
into the stockings and not once asking to eat a piece (though in
Cora’s case, she held up a butterscotch and said,
“Cough drop, Mommy!”) And then it was time for the
children to return.

Maddie lurked in the background, watching the children run to their
decorating seats, wanting desperately to make friends and join in.
Cora barged boldly in, weaving in and out of adult legs and trying
to sneak a Fruit Loop off the table (and I’ve realized I have
truly sheltered my children from sugar since Maddie asked,
“Mommy why are the Cheerios different colors?”) Maddie
eventually built up her nerve, clutching Silky tightly and moving
to hover shyly over one little boy’s shoulder. When juice
time came, Maddie ran to grab the boxes and pass them out,
“Here you go,” coming quietly out as she handed them
off. A highlight for Maddie was meeting Taegen, the little girl for
whom we’d shopped.

Finally it was gift time for the children, and they all cleared to
the center of the room where a large circle of presents awaited
them. We did indeed have a cookie left over, so I deemed it a good
time to allow Maddie to sit and decorate while the other kids tore
through their presents. Maddie sat with a good view of the
proceedings, keeping an eye on Taegen the whole time. When I saw
Taegen move towards our gift I pointed it out to Maddie, who stared
intently as the little girl unwrapped our gift – a set of a
ballerina skirt, wings, and a fairy wand. When Maddie saw
Taegen’s glee she turned to me, glowing, and said,
“Taegen liked our gift, Mama! She really loved it!” And
I knew we were right to come.

As we drove home, I talked about how glad we’d made God that
day – not just from gift-giving, but from trying hard to make
others happy and from sharing how much He’s given us. Maddie
chatted on and on about wanting to become friends with Taegen, and
how fun it was to see our pastor interacting with all the kids.
Neither she nor Cora complained that they didn’t get to bring
home one of the balloons we’d given to all the kids. They
never asked where their presents were, or why these kids got so
much loot.

I was proud of my girls, and how well-behaved they were. And I know
it wasn’t handing out cups of water on the front lines in
Darfur, but I think they caught a glimpse of what it is to be a
cheerful servant in this world, to bring joy and relief to others.
Maddie understands that Taegen won’t be having a big
Christmas party at her house, and that in a small way Maddie made
Christmas much more special for that little girl. It brought
serving home to her, and showed her firsthand that even a
three-year-old can make a difference.


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