I grew up in a small town in Nebraska in an average family. Every year at Christmas, we sponsored a child through the Angel Tree® program. I loved the tradition and felt something special when we would drop off the packages in time for a prisoner’s child to celebrate Christmas.
As I grew older, I wasn’t as dedicated or consistent about picking a special tag from an Angel Tree. Sometimes it was hard to find a nearby location running the program. However, once I became a mom, I truly felt the need to spread the love and generosity so that my son, Jackson, would witness how our family could help other families.
Early during the Advent season in 2013, I was excited to pick an Angel Tree tag from the tree at our church. I wanted to be one of the first families to pick a tag since the year before we were late and all the tags had been taken.
This year, Jackson was 3 – old enough to help me pick out the tag and presents, beginning a whole new tradition for the two of us. Also, this year I had a special reason of my own to help out a child.
Our family was in need of finding joy this Christmas. We were missing our baby boy, Nicholas, who was stillborn a few months earlier. Nicholas was survived by his twin sister, but even with the delightful and joyful noises of a new baby at Christmastime, we knew our own little angel couldn’t be with us.
When it was time to pick our tag, Jackson and I walked hand-in-hand to the tree. We looked through a few tags and found one that read “toy cars.”
I said to Jackson, “We can handle toy cars, can’t we?”
To say Jackson has a lot of toy cars is an understatement. Friends, relatives, and co-workers have given our boy buckets of cars, and he has played with every one of them.
A new little matchbox car is only a dollar or so, and some fun accessories would be easy to give to a little boy, but I was surprised by such a simple wish. The simplicity of a toy car made me sad. I grabbed the tag and signed up for “toy cars” for a boy, age 4.
As I made my way to my seat, Jackson was 10 feet ahead of me being his social, mayoral self and greeting all the Sunday worshippers. Once I sat down, I decided to review the tag once again.
I read, “Boy, age 4, toy cars, name Sir’nicolas.”
I truly don’t know how long I stared and wondered, ‘Does that really say Nicolas?’ Then, I poked my husband and handed it to him like a teenager passing a note in class. This little boy and my angel have almost the same name.
During the church service, I had to take my 3-month-old daughter out of the sanctuary for a few minutes. I decided to ask the gracious Angel Tree volunteers for more information about Sir’nicolas. I needed to know if I was really reading the name right.
My approach was obviously a little off when I said, “Is this boy’s name seriously Sir’nicolas?” I didn’t mean to sound small minded; what I really meant was, ‘Is this boy’s name really Nicolas?’ The volunteer even looked up the paperwork to assure me that, yes, this was true.
I proceeded to tell her that I lost a baby named Nicholas and that this tag was not a coincidence. The volunteer knew exactly who I was; although our church has a large congregation, our family’s story is well-known. The volunteer embraced me immediately.
She said, “That is what we would call an Angel Wink.”
The Joy of Giving
Shopping for Sir’nicolas’ gifts was extremely more enjoyable than shopping for most Christmas presents because they had deep meaning to me. I wanted to find the perfect toy cars and the perfect wrapping paper to make sure Sir’nicolas had a memorable Christmas.
Maybe Sir’nicolas won’t remember his fourth Christmas or the present he received years down the road, but I will always remember the joy I found in making little Nicholas’ Christmas brighter.