Friday, December 21, 2007

Operation Santa Claus

I have so much to tell you, but I'm in so much pain right now I'm not sure how far I'll get this evening! Lol! (<--- Note the Lol. That means yes it's real pain but it's pain that will go away.) New York (and some other large cities) have a program called Operation Santa Claus. With Operation Santa Claus, all letters addressed to "Santa" or "The North Pole" are sent to the main post office in NYC. Some are then routed to other large cities participating in Operation Santa Claus, and the rest are kept here and made available to anyone who'd like to come in, answer some of the letters, and fulfill the childrens' requests (food, clothing, toys, miracles...)

My plan today was to get one letter. Maybe 3. Maybe. What can I say... I read, I cried... I cried a lot... I told other people who came in "You're gonna cry." (Nothing like spreading a little Christmas cheer!) and I walked out with more than 3 kids' wishes to fulfill. I'm not going to say how many, but it was more than 3. Maybe in the next few days I'll tell you how many.

I've read that some people prefer to fulfill requests for food or clothes or shoes more than requests for toys. For me it was the exact opposite. I thought "These kids do not want me buying them clothes. I'm sure whatever I get won't be cool enough!" -I have nephews. I know! ;) Plus, as important as clothes are, kids want toys at Christmas.

But most of the letters I read were requests for clothes and shoes. And they'd list the kids' sizes for each item. It broke my heart to put some of those back in the "no" -or at least "not for me" pile. I know the ones asking for clothes might be more dire, but I wanted to get kids toys. And I thought of getting toys for some of the clothing request kids, but those didn't always state the age or sex of the child (-and with some of the non English names, who could tell if the kid was a boy or a girl!) So I put those aside. It made me sad but I told myself that I had to do what I could. That not every child's letter was going to be answered, and that there were plenty I could do, and do well.

I feel like some of the ones I put back are going to haunt me... Particularly one from a teenager who wanted things for her mostly adult family. I wish I could have helped her out, but that was going to be out of my budget.

One that was a no-brainer for me described a little girl and how good she was, and then at the end simply stated that she'd like a baby doll. And I thought wow... Baby dolls are pretty easy to come by, yet this person had to ask somebody else to get this for her child. Needless to say hers was one of the letters I took.

Then, the shopping day from Hell ensued! ;) I went to 5 different stores, using public transportation, and looked and compared prices. Then I went back to 3 of them and bought toys. And you know what else I bought for several kids? CLOTHES! Lol! The thing I didn't want to get! But I was having a hard time figuring out what would be best for some of them, so I compromised and bought them clothing AND a toy.

As I'm sitting here typing, I'm remembering some of the scarier toys I saw. Toys that looked like they'd break within 5 minutes... dolls that were scary as heck and some that sounded downright demonic when they laughed or cried! Cute, reasonably priced dolls are hard to find! -And you know what's even scarier? The women who'd pick them up and say "oh... look how beautiful..." I wanted to take some of these women aside and say "For just 5 more dollars you can get one elsewhere that won't look like it's related to Chuckie!" I mean seriously... there's saving money and there's spending money wisely!

I think I did really well. I really do. There's two I'm not 100% thrilled with but I'm going to take a little more time tomorrow and see if I can supplement those with a couple of small things. These were 4 and 5 year old boys. It's tough when you don't know the kids. Some kids that age love Barney, some love Bob the Builder, some love Thomas, some love Spiderman, or Batman, or Power Rangers... And whichever of those they might love... they'd equally hate the others! Can you imagine: "Why did Santa bring me the RED Power Ranger. Doesn't he know I like the BLUE Power Ranger???" or "Spiderman? Who likes Spiderman? He's boring! I want Batman!" *Sigh.* So I had to keep it generic for them. I even called my sister and solicited opinions from at least 10 strangers and I didn't get a lot of help on those. -Because their suggestions were very Super Hero or TV show specific, and again... I just don't know these kids. And anything computer or DVD related is out because who knows if they have a computer or DVD player. I mean heck I would have been all over the educational software section if I knew they'd be able to use it!

Anyway... I had a LOT of bags by the end. And I was carrying them through a LOT of crowds of people. And now my back has a LOT of pain! But a hot shower and some ibuprofen will fix that. Right now though, I am spent (no pun intended). I stuck to my budget (well... my revised budget once I decided to shop for more than 3 kids!) and like I said, I think I did well. Tomorrow I'll wrap, buy some candy canes and a few more odds and ends, and then I will probably hand deliver some of these. If I mailed them tomorrow (Sat) there's no guarantee they'd arrive by Christmas. And yes, of course it would have been better to do this a week or so ago! Lol! I know that! I didn't procrastinate. I just had other things to do that had to come first. Now that those things are out of the way, Santa is in the house.

The "Thankful" part of this? I am very thankful that this was not financially difficult for me to do right now. I am really very grateful for that. I am also thankful that I had the stamina to get through today, and that I'm a pretty good shopper. I'm thankful that I found the toys that I wanted (I had some in mind as soon as I read the letters). I'm so grateful that they were "there" and in the right price range. And also, I have to say that I'm thankful to the mothers who gave me good information about their kids in their letters. (Thank you moms! You done good :) )

PS: Feel free to submit "4 & 5 year old boy" toy suggestions! I'll be running out tomorrow (Sat) early in the day to finish up their shopping!

Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts



storyteller said...

Melissa - I hope your back is feeling better by now. I just wanted to say that your post warms my heart this morning. What a marvelous thing to do! I wonder if MY post office does such a thing? I think I'll go ask today ... though time is short and I don't really want to visit any stores between now and Christmas. Sigh! Perhaps I'll add it to NEXT year's Christmas "to-do" list in my Palm Life Drive and get an earlier start in 2008. Today (having added posts to both blogs already) I'm going to polish one of my rough drafts and begin to print my Christmas Cards, address envelopes, and get those in the mail ... because I don't like the thought of New Year's Greetings or Valentine Wishes as an alternative.
Hugs and blessings,

Kendra said...

Mechanical-ish dinosaurs. The boys here love them. You can get them from Wal-Mart...but they have them outher places too.
I wish I had known about this sooner...I will definately add it to my 'Important' list next year.
Thanks for taking the time out of 2 of your days to make a difference.

Hillary said...

What a fabulous idea!!! And go you for taking it on!

Melissa said...

Storyteller: The back is better. It was just from carrying so many bags for several hours. If I'd known I'd be doing that much shopping and carrying the bags all over the city, I would have brought some kind of carrier with wheels.

As for New Years greetings... I often do those! Lol! I'll be doing some this year as well. I got cards out to people whose cards I received as of a few days ago, but not to other people I would have liked to send cards to. (Or to anyone whose cards I've received since then.) And let's not forget that technically, Christmas has 12 days! -Don't think I haven't used that excuse! :D

kendra: Dinosaurs are a good idea but I didn't see any good ones. Maybe if I'd started shopping EARLIER! Lol! Thank you for the suggestion :)

hillary: High praise from you "The Queen Of Christmas!" :) If anyone hasn't read Hillary's blog yet, you have to go read what she did for her class. (I see years of therapy ahead! Lol!)

storyteller said...

Re: Christmas cards -- Thanks for reminding me about the 12 days of Christmas. I feel better this morning. I finally finished mine last night before retiring. I've added notes and addressed envelopes, but now am awaiting stamps (how could I have not picked up stamps … I remember going to the post office, but if I bought them I have no idea where they are now … sigh)! Since it’s Sunday, I guess they won’t get in the mail until tomorrow … so they’ll arrive late, but at least they’re ready to go and won’t be Valentines after all.