37: The Faith of a Child

37: The Faith of a Child

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

The Faith of a Child

I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom.

~Author Unknown

My jaw dropped when I saw the prices of playground equipment at the local discount store. How could I buy these items for the kids at the shelter? I had recently become a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter and was spending a couple of hours there on Tuesday nights, playing with the children.

I had first volunteered there in mid-July, and I still remember feeling like I had stepped into a Third World country. A dozen or more motel units housed mothers with anywhere from one to four kids. No indoor facility existed, so I played with the kids outside. But, as I looked around on that first visit, I was dismayed. There was no playground equipment of any kind. An old gazebo with a couple of broken picnic benches served as a play area. Un-mowed grass and tall weeds choked a green space and a tottery basketball hoop stood on one end of an asphalt parking lot full of potholes. A few bicycles with flat tires and bent frames leaned against the privacy fence that hid the area from outside eyes.

Somehow, this shelter had slipped through the cracks of a system that had seen far too many budget cuts. At the suggestion of a friend, I wrote one of the local Sertoma Club chapters a letter describing the shelter’s needs, and what happened next was nothing short of divine.

A former Sertoma Club member had recently passed away, leaving a bequest to be used for a “worthy children’s organization.” The chapter approved the shelter project and within a few short weeks, the shelter received a modern playground set, a graveled play area, four basketball hoops permanently set in concrete, a hopscotch game painted on new asphalt, and shiny new bikes.

With Christmas approaching, my thoughts returned to the nineteen kids who called the shelter home. I realized I could not afford to buy them Christmas presents, so I resigned myself to getting some candy and maybe a few cheap toys from the dollar store.

One Saturday I made a lunch date with a friend, and her nine-year old granddaughter, Sierra, accompanied us. After lunch, Sierra approached me and pressed a small, white envelope into my hand. I asked her what it was and she answered “money to buy toys for kids at the shelter.” With tears in my eyes I opened the envelope and found $17.50. She told me she draws pictures and sells them and gives half the money to charities.

I knew God was at work again. I was reminded of the story in the Bible where a boy offers up five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed a crowd of 5,000. Everyone was fed that day and leftovers filled twelve baskets! I knew then that if this nine-year-old girl had faith that $17.50 was enough to buy Christmas toys for the kids at the shelter I should believe it too.

At my next church choir practice, I told the story of the kids at the shelter and my desire to buy them Christmas presents. I also told them about Sierra. I was not ready for their overwhelming response. Choir members donated nearly $600 — enough to buy each shelter child a very nice Christmas toy. My Sunday school class held a wrapping party and my car was loaded with presents to deliver to the kids at the shelter the week of Christmas.

I will never forget the smiles on the kids’ faces and the tears of their mothers. As I was leaving, one woman ran after me and hugged me very hard. She said she had called a friend to tell her that an “angel had visited her that night.” I told her I was certainly no angel… but I knew they existed.

~Katie A. Mitchell

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