By: Maggie Blaedow, Alabama CASA Network Executive Director
For most of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. We sing about it, talk about it, make our lists, save our money, and celebrate to the fullest extent possible. For many of us, this is also the time of year when we are most generous and we give to others because we have been given so much. The story below is one that warms my heart and breaks it at the same time. It is a true story that I experienced myself several years ago while managing a local CASA program in Alabama. I hope that it touches you in a way that leads you to appreciate all that we’ve been given, but also encourages you that your gifts of time and money to CASA are so very worth it!
Several years ago, CASA was appointed to a young boy named Juan*, who has been exposed to unimaginable abuse. Juan’s behavior was out of control. We worked with him diligently, and ultimately helped him begin to trust again. It is so very heartbreaking the effects that abuse has on young children. Juan had younger siblings who remained in his home of origin with their mother, but they were living in poverty and barely making it.
Since Juan was in foster care, Christmas gifts was provided to him by another agency, yet his siblings would receive nothing. He had one request and that his siblings could have gifts for Christmas, even if that meant that he didn’t get anything. I was so touched by his sense of responsibility for his siblings, and decided asked a CASA community partner to provide Christmas for these children.
As I pulled up to the home to deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve, I remembered that Juan’s mother did not speak English, and we may have a bit of trouble communicating. This was a run-down home, that did not even have a heating unit. I walked up to the door and knocked. The mother answered and although I did my best to explain why I was there, she did not understand. She motioned for me to wait and left the door way. I could see inside the house and saw a very misshapen Christmas tree in the corner – think Charlie Brown’s Christmas meets Clarke Griswold. Half the lights were not working, yet it touched me that there were handmade ornaments that the children had brought home from school all over it. Juan’s mother came back to the door with one of her children and he began to serve as an interpreter for us.
After I explained who I was and that I had some gifts for the children, I told him that I had been sent by Santa and that Santa had known that the family had moved in the last year and he could find their new home. That young boy, probably about 7 years old, looked up at me and said, “Oh good, thank you! He couldn’t find our house last year either.”
Without CASA’s involvement with the older sibling, and without working to get him to a better place in his life, his siblings would have been left alone again, with no Christmas. In my opinion, no child should have to endure a year without Christmas.
I urge you to remember just how much CASA does every single day in the lives of children just like Juan and his siblings. Together, we can have an impact on others, and that is truly the most valuable gift we can give this holiday season.
*Names have been changed due to confidentiality rules and regulations.