Imagine something for a moment for me. If I say “Christmas morning,” what images are brought to mind?
Is it a visual image, the tree with its colorful lights and glistening tinsel? Might it be a certain smell? Perhaps, cookies placed perfectly on a tin baking in the oven or a turkey roasting the oven? Maybe even a sound? Can you hear the children squealing with delight as they realize Santa has made his yearly visit? Or, beautifully wrapped presents in all shapes and sizes being shorn of their foil wraps, which are hiding this years treasures?
Whatever it is, the thought of Christmas morning can bring a variety of happy, warm and fuzzy images.
Almost two years ago on Christmas Eve, we welcomed a 6-year-old foster son into our home. He was a beautiful little boy with huge chocolate colored eyes. Knowing Nicholas needed an adoptive home, we said, “Yes” and decided to bring him home for good. We thought, what better day to welcome him into our family, which is a day of love, a day to celebrate with our family. We go to church at midnight and watch the sky for any glimpse of Santa on our way home and race into bed so we are fast asleep before this jolly man descends from our chimney.
Christmas: what a beautiful day. A great gift was added to our family that night, a gift we have been blessed to enjoy day after day since.
Now imagine being a little child sound asleep in your warm cozy bed dreaming of Sugar Plum fairies. Then, BAM-BAM-BAM! You are startled awake to yelling, screaming, doors being broke down and the police raiding your home. Next a complete stranger takes you from your home away from your mom, brothers, dog and your dreams, and placed in the back of a van driven to a complete stranger’s home with the promise that, “They are really nice people who will take good care of you,” just before Christmas. Just before the day that you believed Santa would bring you the toy you secretly asked him for. Now Santa has already started his journey and there is no way he would ever know where you are now. You feel lost, forgotten and alone; not the “warm fuzzy” anymore.
Now imagine waking up in this stranger’s home on Christmas morning with the blankets pulled over your head, trying to make the day go away. Not wanting to face the rest of the kids who Santa knew where they lived. Not wanting to be the only one watching and hearing the sights and sounds of Christmas. But alas, you quietly creep from your bed, watching the tearing and ripping of all sorts of presents: the dolls, the bike, the newest video game being treasured by the other kids in the home, and seeing some of the things you secretly asked Santa for. All of a sudden, this “very nice lady,” who’s name you cannot even remember, sits quietly by your side. In her hands are beautifully wrapped presents with bows. The tag you read is your own name! YOUR name! He didn’t forget! I wasn’t forgotten! Somehow, Santa found out I was here in this home with these people on this day. Wow, Santa, you were remembered. You are important enough to be remembered.
How you can help
Christmas Day plays out this way year after year across foster homes in Milwaukee County. Beautiful children, scared and lonely, missing their moms, dads and siblings, fearful of being forgotten, are given gifts of love from donors like you. While we cannot ensure each foster child will be given the gift of a forever family on Christmas, we can ensure that each foster child is given the gift of feeling they matter and loved. They are cared for and will never be forgotten. I ask each of you reading this to imagine one more thing for me: What did you get last year for Christmas or the year before? Unless it was the gift of a child like I received, I would think you have a hard time remembering. How about letting your Santa know the gift you would like this year is the gift of giving a present to one of our kids? I promise you, the gift will be remembered for years to come.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services’ Holiday Toy Drive runs from now until December 14. For more information about how to be Santa to one of our kids, contact Laura Goba at (414) 231-4871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last thing, one of the most inspiring people I know is a yellow stuffed bear by the name of Winnie the Pooh. “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference,” Winnie the Pooh
Paulette is a foster and adoptive parent. She works at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as a foster parent liaison, providing support, offering encouragement and advocating for foster parents throughout all phases of fostering and adoption.