This week we look back at an article written in the Daily Pilot in 2003 about the spirit of Christmas and OCIS. It makes us thankful for our volunteers and donors during the holiday season. Your help makes individual differences in our residents’ lives, and this article is just one example of how important you are. Happy Holidays!
A chance to give a little
By Steve Smith
Published in the Daily Pilot on December 6, 2003
No one asked him if he wanted to be born. No one asked him where he wanted to live or what he’d like his mom and dad to do for a living. No one asked him if it was OK to move far away from the family members who could offer help when it was needed. No one gave him a choice on anything important. After all, he was only a kid; what did he know?
So when his mom lost her job because the company wasn’t doing well, it didn’t really matter what he thought. He had no voice in where they would go, what they would do or how they would live. He was only along for the ride.
A little older now, he is beginning to recognize that he is different. He is beginning to realize that most children do not live in a group home, or multiple group homes, the way he has. He understands now that most kids who have slept in their cars did not do so because it was an adventure, as his mom had told him, but because they had nowhere else to sleep.
Then the car was gone—sold to buy food and clothing.
Attending his third school in as many months, he struggled to make friends. Knowing that the other kids in school returned home each afternoon to the same house or apartment, he could not ask them over to the shelter to play. They wouldn’t understand and would probably tease him.
But he watched television from time to time, and he began to understand now it was supposed to be. He began to understand that a family was a mom, a dad and a child or children. He watched and saw a parent going off to work; sometimes both parents went to work. The kids went to school, often walking and laughing with chums they met along the way.
At night, the TV people had dinner together and talked about their days. After dinner, the mom tucked the kids into bed and kissed them goodnight. Most of all, on television and through his schoolmates’ lives, he saw security. It overwhelmed him to the point that he thought of little else. His yearning for a permanent home, a good job for his mom and the chance to walk to the same school over and over again for months or years became a beautiful obsession.
After school, when no one was watching, he acted out the family life he promised himself. He had a wife and two children and a house of their own. They were happy.
Then, one day, his mom took him to a different type of group home. This one was in a place he liked immediately because when he arrived in August, he noticed that he did not need air conditioning at night. He’d never had air conditioning in the other homes and had suffered during the hot, sleepless nights.
This place was different. During the day, he went to a school where his teacher did not judge him because he was different. At this school, his teacher gave him just as much time and attention as the other children.
During the day at this place, his mom had things to do. They were no longer sleeping a room with other moms and dads and kids, but one of their own. This one even had its own bathroom. All this meant that mom would have to keep house again, the way she used to do in their apartment when times were good.
During the day, they taught his mom how to use a computer, something he was learning, too, in his new school. “You can get a lot of jobs if you know how to use this well,” they told his mom. When she knew enough, they gave her some nice clothes and sent her on job interviews.
But as soon as he saw hope, he also saw dread. It was now Thanksgiving, and he began to see signs of Christmas. Christmas meant gifts. Toys. He had been a good boy, he thought, and even with all the bad stuff happening around him, surely he’d get something. But at 10, he was old enough to know the truth.
He knew there was no Santa Claus, and he knew his mom didn’t have enough money yet to buy him anything. So for him, Christmas morning would be like every other morning.
But he awoke last Christmas morning to a miracle. That morning, he had wrapped gifts at the foot of his bed. As he opened them, the miracle grew. He got the one toy he’d wished for and some brand new clothes — these had the labels still attached — and they were exactly his size.
But the best was yet to come. Just after he opened his last gift, his mother leaned over to him and said, “Baby, I’ve got some good news for you. The computer classes I took here helped me find a job. And some very nice person has given us the money we need to move into our own apartment again, one that’s two blocks from the school you’ll be going to. So, I’m sorry that we have to move again, but this time, it’s gonna be for a long, long time. Merry Christmas.”
This dream was made possible by the miracle workers at the Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter in Costa Mesa. You can help them make these dreams come true through your donations of food and clothing or by sponsoring a family to make their Christmas dreams come true. But most of all, your donations of cash are needed to help kids who don’t have a choice. Please be generous this year and make a donation today. Send it to the Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter, 1963 Wallace Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Or call (949) 631-7213.
Thank you very much.
* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer. Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at (949) 642-6086.