The Monthly Project: Gift of Giving – Update

I went out this weekend and bought my Toys for Tots donation…it’s just as hard every year, and I’m just as surprised every year at how hard it really is. Every year it’s on my mental list of things to do in December, and I don’t really give it a second thought…I’ve done it every year since 1996, and it seems that by now it shouldn’t be such a big deal. And every year, either as I’m buying the toy or leaving it at the TfT donation site (or both), the tears start. Every. Stupid. Year.

For those wondering why the simple act of buying a toy could be so hard, I’ll explain. In January 1996 my nephew, Tyler, was born. I only got to meet him twice, because I lived across the country from my family. I didn’t hold him either of those two times because he was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him. (That, and I felt like a total klutz around babies.) Who knew that those would be the only two times I would get to see my little nephew? But in May, on the day that he was 4 months and 21 days old, Tyler died. The official report was SIDS. My family has a few questions about that, though. Turns out the teenaged son of the daycare provider was in the room when Tyler died…and was in the room another time when a baby died at that daycare from SIDS. I choose to believe SIDS, because it’s easier for me to deal with.

I won’t get into how hard it was for our family to deal with – I’m sure you can all imagine; and I can tell you that whatever you imagine will not be an exaggeration.

Christmas was that much harder that year – we had been expecting to celebrate Tyler’s first Christmas, which made the holidays seem bleak instead of festive. I decided that year that the one thing I could do to make something good come from all of this was to donate a toy in his memory. I would buy a toy for a boy the age that Tyler would have been. It wouldn’t bring back my nephew, but would brighten someone’s holiday.

It goes without saying that I would rather be buying Tyler something for Christmas…and that’s what hits me every year when I go to buy my TfT donation. I wonder if he would be totally into Legos, like his brother (now 18) still is. Maybe he’d be a geek like me. Maybe he’d be a total tech-head. Maybe outdoorsy. Maybe so many things that I’ll never know.

That’s why my TfT donation is so hard every year. And that’s why I still have to do it every year. What are you going to do to help someone this year?

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The Monthly Project: Gift of Giving

Over at Sisterhood they have a Monthly Project – something to help us all feel better about ourselves, treat ourselves better, or set ourselves up for success in our goals of getting healthier. The month, though, it’s about looking outward – December’s Monthly Project is about Giving Back.

I’m happy to say that I’ve got this one in the bag. December has always been a time when I looked to others. Since sometime in Junior High school, I’ve loved giving gifts to other people more than receiving. I pride myself on being able to pick out that perfect gift. My desire to give to those I didn’t know started in High School when my Mom and I contributed gifts to the Angel Tree project a few years in a row. Angel Tree supports kids who have a parent in jail and may not otherwise get gifts for Christmas.

For the past 14 years I have given a Toys for Tots gift in honor of my nephew who died before he saw his first Christmas. Each year I give a toy appropriate for the age he would have been that year. Now that he would have been 15 in January, I suspect that’s getting outside the age range for TfT. I’m struggling with what to do to honor him in the coming years. (I’m not embarrassed to say that delivering the toy each year still makes me cry…in fact, writing about it here is making me cry, too.)

I know the economy is tough, and we all feel the pinch. But I was able to make a donation through my grad school years, so I think most people can come up with *something* to do for someone less fortunate. One year I thought I’d have to forgo my TfT donation because things were so tight, but when I received some unexpected money, it was the first thing I bought (plus a stupid plastic table cloth in what I’ve come to call The Target Incident).

I’m happy to say that my husband and I are doing fairly well in this economy, so we’ve been in the position to donate to charities regularly. Above and beyond our monthly donations for December, I’ve also made a donation to a Donors Choose project and helped with a microloan through Kiva. These are charities where even $5 can help.

If even $5 is too much for you this year (and believe me, I know about $5 being too much to pull out of a budget – read The Target Incident if you don’t believe me), maybe find some gently used things to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army – Christmas is probably a busy time for them as well. Or find a way to donate some time. Heck, just shovel a elderly or sick neighbor’s sidewalk or rake up their leaves. It doesn’t have to cost anything to help out.

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