By Loretta Eidson
The Christmas holidays were fast approaching, and I needed to come up with a special project for the small group who met in my home once a month. We tossed around several ideas, but none of them seemed to fit the longing to do something extra special. Everyone agreed to think it over and bring their ideas to our next meeting.
As I was shuffling through my attic later in the week, gathering Christmas decorations, my eyes landed on three large bins. I cleared a path and made my way over to them. I sat on a box to admire their contents: my prized collection of Ty Beanie Babies, which had been tucked away for several years.
Over a hundred soft, cuddly beanbag animals with their tags still in place were unveiled when I popped the lids off. A laugh slipped from between my lips as I reminisced standing in long lines at the stores to grab the most popular ones. It had been silly but fun hunting down these adorable collectibles.
Then the idea hit me. As proud as I was of my collection, hiding them in the attic didn’t seem so important anymore. What if our group put together gift bags for children at our local children’s hospital? What if I placed a Beanie Baby in each bag? Why not? They were like new.
An electric charge shot through me. I could hardly wait for our next meeting. When everyone had arrived, discussion of a Christmas project resumed, and no one offered any new ideas. When I shared mine, the faces around me lit up like Christmas trees. Ideas began to explode, and a plan formed.
We would dress in red and white like we were Santa’s helpers. My husband accepted the role of Santa. Each group member joyfully offered to donate toys.
We mailed a letter to the hospital describing what we wanted to do. We were approved to visit two specific floors. The letter went on to say that the hospital staff was thrilled these children wouldn’t be forgotten, but would instead receive a personal visit from Santa.
Everyone in our group came alive with expectation. Imagining the smiles and squeals on children’s faces gave us a real sense of the meaning of Christmas. We were giving, expecting nothing in return. Giving to those who couldn’t give back.
At the hospital, it was heartwarming to step inside each child’s room. They were all in the hospital for a reason—they were sick. There were no squeals or laughter, but bashful smiles blossomed across their faces when their eyes met Santa’s.
One eight-year-old boy had been in the hospital for over a week. The nurses said he rarely spoke and never smiled. However, when Santa walked into his room, his eyes brightened as a slight grin appeared on his face. He hugged Santa and opened his gift bag. A furry brown Beanie Baby puppy fell into his lap. It was amazing. We hadn’t pre-planned boy and girl gift bags, but the puppy was perfect for this young man.
In another room, an infant lay helpless, tubes connected all over her tiny body. Her parents sat silently in the dim light. A smile crossed the mom’s face when I entered, wearing my Santa hat, then a squealed escaped her lips when Santa appeared at the door. The dad’s grin was silent but welcoming. The mom picked up her newborn and asked to take a picture of her baby in Santa’s arms—tubes and all. It was a precious, emotional moment.
Our departure from the children’s hospital was a somber one. While our families were enjoying a delightful Christmas filled with gifts and festive meals, these children and their parents were confined to the quiet of their hospital rooms.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
Loretta Eidson is wife to Kenneth, mother of four children, and grandmother to twelve grandchildren. After eighteen years at her church job, she resigned to pursue her love of writing. Loretta believes in the power of prayer. She enjoys dark chocolate and Starbucks coffee. You can connect with her at lorettaeidson.com.
Photograph by Hans Braxmeier.