When I was in college, I worked one summer as a server at the Minnesota State Fair and became friends with Lee, a single mom who had two kids to support at home.
Despite the fact that we led very different lives, we instantly hit it off. I loved working my 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift with her, we teased one another, we joked around, we laughed so hard we sometimes cried. She was real and uncensored and wise to the world; I was a naïve college kid. I think she liked living vicariously through my college stories as much as I liked getting a glimpse into her world as a (very hardworking) young mom.
After one shift, we somehow got onto the subject of Christmas. I can’t remember how or why the holiday came up, but I’m sure I mentioned family traditions and maybe even joked about how hard it was to buy gifts for my picky boyfriend. I couldn’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love the holiday.
Lee quietly told me that she hadn’t been able to afford gifts for her kids last year, and was working this second job (in August!) to put away some Christmas money. It was her goal, she said, to also pay it forward to another family in need.
She was barely scraping by last year, she said, and the organization Toys for Tots gave her “hope and dignity” during a really rough time in her life, allowing her children to have the kind of Christmas she would never have been able to provide on her own—one with gifts from Santa.
Lee and I lost touch, but that conversation stayed with me. I think about her every summer when I go to the State Fair, and every winter when the Toys for Tots drive revs up again.
You can make a donation to Toys for Tots at a drop-off site near you (sorted by zip code), by bringing a new, unwrapped toy to Cowboy Jack’s for a free ticket to the Minneapolis Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl this Saturday, December 21 from 6:30 to 11 p.m., or at the Running Aces Toys for Tots Poker Tournament December 21 at 4 p.m., with $20 of every buy-in—and 100 percent of every add-on—going to the toy drive. You can also make a donation online, donate by mail, donate in memory or honor, donate a vehicle, or donate via ebay.
There’s still time to donate. Make it a Christmas to remember for a family in need.