Christmas shopping spree gives back

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It was a Christmas shopping spree. But it was not the usual Christmas shopping spree. This shopping spree had Christ in it. It was for the least of these.

A woman, let’s call her FRT, had promised to take a group of children on a Christmas shopping spree. These children live in places called The Alley and The Projects in Selma.

It’s one thing to make promises and another thing to keep promises. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

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FRT decided to take the children where the money would stretch the farthest. She decided on a place I will call DC, where one can purchase a whole lot with a little money. There is no DC in Selma, and the DC in Montgomery was out of toys.  They decided to travel the 150 mile round trip to the DC in Tuscaloosa. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

The person who works most closely with these children, SM, was sick and could not go. This was the Tuesday before Christmas, which was on Friday.  That created a problem because the trip could not be rescheduled. A community person, let’s call him SW, agreed to drive the van for a fee. A youth leader, let’s call her AI, agreed to go along and help. One mother of three children, let’s call her GB, went along. The four adults and the 14 children, ranging in age from four to 14, were off to DC in Tuscaloosa.  It was a Christmas shopping spree.

FRT gave each child a budget of $25 to spend.  The conditions were:  (1) they could not go over the $25 limit; and (2) they had to buy at least one book. The joy was great as the children shopped. There was only one attitude problem during the entire trip.  It involved a pair of skates. The 14-year-old was determined to have the skates. However, another child had beaten her to them. A little discussion quickly solved the problem. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

The toys were already inexpensive because it was DC. But there was a 50 percent sale. Then there was a 60 percent off sale on clothes, which presented a challenge.

Children could easily figure a 50 percent off sale because that is half, but 60 percent was a mathematical challenge. FRT tried to teach them how to figure 60 percent off. She could easily do it in her head, but the formula escaped her. She struggled to help them. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

In the beginning, there was great concern that 14 children might not be manageable. The concern was unfounded.

The children were excited and filled with joy. The younger children were more excited. Some children were good shoppers and others needed more assistance. However, the children minded well. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

Two children refused to buy anything. They insisted on taking the money back home to help out. Some purchased gifts for their sisters and/or brothers. The children did not purchase gifts for their mothers. (Mothers are so taken for granted.)  The children purchased toys, clothes, shoes and other items. While the sneakers on sale were a great bargain, none of the children would purchase them.  They wanted name brand sneakers. In the end, only one child purchased a book, and several went over the $25 budget after they wanted name brand sneakers.  It was a Christmas shopping spree.

At the end of the DC spree, FRT decided to take the children to eat. There was one condition: every child had to agree on one place to eat. Some insisted on MD; some wanted BK; some wanted W; some wanted TB. The children eventually agreed on TB. All made it back to Selma safe and sound. It was a Christmas shopping spree.

These children are truly among the least of these. They reside in The Alley and The Projects. I believe the children will remember this experience long after the toys are broken, the clothes and shoes are outgrown, and other items are out of sight, out of  mind. The adults will not forget the Christmas shopping spree either. They not only gave materially; they gave of their time and love. However, they received more than they gave. It was a Christmas shopping spree with Christ in the spree.

When we touch young lives for the better, we make a difference for a lifetime. We cannot give better or more lasting gifts than touching the lives of our young.