I spent a lot of time just thinking about them before I ever bought a single gift. I considered what I knew about each child and what sorts of activities they might enjoy. I mulled over the new gadgets and toys that might elicit a wide-eyed, wonder-filled response when the wrapping paper is ripped away.
I checked their wish lists.
I even did a Google search for the most popular presents for children their ages.
I didn't want to leave their happiness to chance.
Now, as I wrap each gift, I wonder about the doubts and disappointments they may have experienced this year. I find myself hoping this Christmas restores their faith in the kindness and compassion of others and reminds them there is always reason to have hope.
I envision the magic of their Christmas morning: the squeals, the laughter, the disbelief. Alas, I won't see their faces when Lacey and Jalen and Denayah open their gifts. I don't even know them, after all, and it's not my place to share their Christmas celebration.
Lacey and her children are the family we have adopted this Christmas through the Salvation Army. All I know about them, other than that they met the requirements for assistance, are a few hints to guide my shopping.
I know Jalen likes the color blue and Digimon characters and his shoe size is 7. His little sister Denayah loves the Little Mermaid and Barbie and the color pink. I know their 29-year-old mom wants nothing for herself – only gifts for her children.
Beyond that, I've had to rely on what I understand about all moms and children to help me choose just the right items for this special family.
One thing I know is that Lacey probably would give anything to be able to walk into a superstore and buy her own gifts for her children. Only she knows for sure what they truly would like to receive; only she can say which book would capture Jalen's imagination or which pair of Princess pajamas Denayah would put on to dance around the living room.
It breaks my heart a bit that I get to have all the fun of choosing, while Lacey will only watch her children open their gifts in the hope that their wishes are fulfilled.
Then again, what Lacey doesn't know is that she is giving my family the best part of our Christmas celebration.
Tomorrow morning, before sunrise is even a suggestion in the sky, we will pile into our van, already packed with the boxes and bags I'm wrapping now. I'll drive over the crunchy snow, our headlights piercing the darkness as we head across town to seek out Lacey's house.
As the sky lightens just a bit, we'll make out the numbers on her front door and then, to be certain, I'll drive past a few more times as we map out our delivery strategy.
When everyone is ready, I'll stop in front of Lacey's house while Jim and our four children pile out, pop the trunk and unload the presents. They'll assemble all of it on Lacey's doorstep and quickly return to the van, leaving one child behind to ring the bell.
Then, in one frantic game of "ding dong dash," we'll peel away and park in the shadows until we're certain Lacey has heard the call. When a light goes on and it's clear there's activity in her home, we'll drive away.
Our next stop will be the pancake house. Over eggs and waffles, we'll contemplate what might have happened when Lacey opened the door. Will she tell her children they are the first stop on Santa's Christmas Eve tour? Will she shoo them to the bedroom and hide the gifts until Christmas morning?
We'll never know, but that's OK. Our Christmas will be complete before it even begins for having been a part of hers.
Merry Christmas, Lacey. And thank you for the gift of Christmas joy you shared with us.