Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"I've been really good this year"

Today Angel and I went to the post office to mail an amaaaazing package to my parents. I am so proud of the things Angel made for them, and regretful I didn't take any pictures before sending it. As soon as we walked in I saw the piles of letters along the walls, but we assumed the post office or volunteer workers were selecting the cutest or funniest "Dear Santa" letters, and Angel guessed would pick some of the most needy children to get them their gifts. Luckily, after we got to the front of the line, something was out of order so we soon had to go to the back of the line and do it again. This time we went equipped with a stack of Santa letters because we realized that the public was allowed to read them too.
After a few really normal letters asking for bikes and a playstation, I read one that seemed really simple yet cute.
I felt so bad when I looked at how many letters there were there and realized it would be unlikely that this girl was chosen out of everyone.

Then I saw the sign that explained the real deal for the letters. It said the public are encouraged to select a letter and play Santa, later dropping off or mailing the gifts to the address on the envelope.
I was sold.

Our letter had a phone number of a neighbor on front because they didn't have a telephone, and the neighbor's niece confirmed the address and the need for our help. The kids were told they wouldnt be able to have Christmas this year, not even a dinner, because of money, and the mom washes clothes to make a living.

(click to enlarge)
We left the post office with the letter and went straight to a department type store and got an amazingly cute little boyshorts bikini for the 8 year old (at one point I said "but she's 8, dont you think the mom would prefer we get a one piece?" and about 4 chilean mothers sifting through the bins next to me looked up with grins, looked at the swimsuit and said "get it".)

Then we went to a large outdoor market set up for Christmas. We found a cute and quality small backpack (more for going out than school, seeing as summer vacation just started) for the letter writer, picked only after I pleaded not to buy Pooh merchandise for a middleschooler- I cannot get over the cultural hurdle of accepting Disney apparel being cool for all ages.

For the boy, picking was easy and after a price and quality survey we returned to a store we had passed for a shiny blue and white soccer ball that should last.

On the way back, we found a little drawstring Hello Kitty bag and hid the swimsuit in that, and got some hair barrettes and a mini handbag to put in the writer's backpack.

We wrapped the gifts, invited another friend, and bought meat, veggies and drinks for their Christmas dinner, and a little extra. Then we got on a bus that took us outside of the port area of Valparaiso and then started heading up.
and up.
and up.
and up.

Some people on the bus and the driver let us know when we finally got to the neighborhood. There was no more up to go. I saw the most incredible view of not only Valparaiso but all of the mountains layered in the distance behind it. To the other side was a cloudy coast I'd never seen before. We looked down on hills of Valparaiso and it was hard to imagine how tall they look from the plan.

We called the neighbor again to help us find our way, and started walking through the street. Everybody had houses mostly built from scratch and siding materials or wood, and there was the most random mix of dogs.... puppies to spaniel looking things to muts to one that passed a Saint Bernard in size were all wandering or fenced in. We gave the neighbor a small jar of maple syrup for her help (did I mention all the lost phone calls in between leaving and arriving?) and knocked on the family's door. A younger mother opened the door with a smile and called down the kids. The house was made of cement but very simple. We noticed a small tree in the corner of the room too and it was obvious that the family got along and the mom was caring. We explained that we were representing Santa in delivering the gifts and handed one to each and the food for the mom. They looked really excited and thankful and kept us there to chat. As we were leaving, Angel and his friends put on a show of acrobatics for them outside.

The mom said the kids would have to wait until Christmas to open the gifts, but the boy looked extremely content with his (note the ball's lack of disguise in the photo), and the girls would have to wait but we saw that one of the neighbors had a large above ground plastic pool and knew the little one would be set for the summer. And the letter writer, the middle child 11 year old girl who wrote a letter to Santa just asking for what everybody else needed and just a little something, whatever that may be, for herself... well she already looked pretty happy.

And finally, I feel the Christmas spirit. I didn't think that was going to come around this year at all.


claresays said...

This is the perfect christmas story! Thank you for sharing.

lydia said...

Thanks, isn't it though?! I'm glad it worked out so well but after all that I woke up early this morning with the jolting thought "we forgot the pan de pascua!!!" oops.

I think sometimes people becomes so wary they decline to participate.
True, sometimes these things don't work out ideally... (watch the news)
But this time it did! It was so nice to see some cute little kids with a good mom and help them be able to celebrate.
Restores a little faith in helping out, I think.

Abby said...

this story made me so happy. i'm really glad it worked out, i'm sure the family will always remember you for making their christmas a little brighter.

kumichan83 said...

This is so sweet... and I like your new header!

Happy Holidays!

Mamacita Chilena said...

This really made me smile :) I'm so glad you were able to help them out a little bit.

Merry Christmas!

Fned said...

Your post really made me smile (and tear up I have to add).

I wasn't feeling the Holiday cheer this year, it just seemed like one bad news coming after another, but your reading your post this morning reminded me of what it's all about.

Felíces Fiestas to Angel and yourself!

Cachando Chile said...

Thanks for that! I have a hard time with the whole Christmas in the summer bit and the way it all seems so commercial... and I tend to forget the true meaing of Christmas... thanks for reminding me... and I'm sure there are 3 kids and a mom who will never forget your act of kindness!

Stephanie said...

wow, that's amazing, thanks for sharing, and as for tearing up, I all out cried.

Christian said...

BRAVO!!! Well done! You've made the world just that much more lovely to be in. I wish I was there to have done the same, perhaps sometime in the future. Best wishes for everyone this 2009!

Meredith said...

Wow, I've been a lazy blog reader so I just got to this.....that's a really great story. I wish I'd known about this! I've always done this sort of thing in the states but this year I was so in my own head it didn't even occur to me...

Now that I've changed my pesos into dollars (the exchange rate is death right now) I'm pretty sure I could've done a lot more as Santa with that cash than I can do as me in the US!