Monday, December 10, 2007

A Merry Christmas to All



“I thought if I would do good enough all year around, Santa would grant my wishes. And so every Christmas I’d wake up only to find the same empty sock I put up. Then the realization came to me. Santa wasn’t for real. And life isn’t easy.” – Leslie Mae Apuli, Philippines

Cold weather is here, and the Christmas shopping season has begun in earnest. And as much as I look forward to the season with all its sights, smells and memories, I’ll confess I’m not looking forward to the crowds at the malls!

Thankfully, Christmas is about more than just “things.” Nevertheless, gifts lovingly presented by friends and loved ones do serve to remind us that Christmas is indeed about giving – a valuable lesson, and one we would do well to put into practice the other 364 days of the year as well.

My family was not wealthy, and I’m sure there were Christmases when we got less than most other kids our age did. But there was never a lack of warmth and caring, and Christmas holds special memories for me because of that.

It’s sobering, though, to discover that Christmas isn’t all that special for a lot of people. Leslie Mae was just 14 when she came to Kansas City to represent her native Philippines at Children International’s youth conference. And when she stood up to give her speech, we quickly learned this was not just another teenager for whom Christmas was the next gadget, to be played with for a couple of days and then discarded out of boredom. Her words gripped us, and hardly a dry eye remained in the crowd.

“I thought if I would do good enough all year around, Santa would grant my wishes,” reflected Leslie Mae of her childhood growing up in poverty. And so every Christmas I’d wake up only to find the same empty sock I put up. Then the realization came to me. Santa wasn’t for real. And life isn’t easy.”

Now, over two years later, Leslie Mae is still talking about Christmas. “Before, Christmas was spent like an ordinary day. I remember looking forward to each day of the year as a child, wishing for gifts and bright lights to be decorated on our house. But there was nothing I could do than wish and watch other children excitedly spend the Christmas dinner with their families.”

Far from bitter over the deprivation she endured as a child, Leslie Mae is grateful for the generosity of the sponsorship family here in America – a family of caring people who have allowed Leslie Mae and hundreds of thousands of children like her to discover the wonder of Christmas.

“When Children International came, each Christmas brought with it a new hope for our family and other sponsored families,” adds Leslie. “Each gift that we received reminds us that the world had not given up on us, and that still there are people who care for us. Each Christmas becomes a motivation for us to strive hard and make our lives better every day.”

Photo and interview assistance by Anthony Lorcha, Children International's communications coordinator in Legazpi, Philippines.

1 comment:

evergreen3 said...

Kelly & Anthony,
I just recently returned from the Philippines and visited my sponsored child Cindy in Legazpi City. I will be writing more about my visits with sponsored children in the Philippines next month. I had the wonderful opportunity to take my sponsored child on a shopping trip. It was her and her families first visit to a mall, to a grocery store, to a fast food restaurant. Sponsors make dreams come true for these children. This year give something special to yourself for the holidays, sponsor another child.