Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
Today, I stood in the presence of angels. Not the kind that have wings and flowing white robes and harps. No, these were real, living and breathing angels.
It was in a chilly, dusty warehouse in the “industrial” area of Atlanta. I looked upon shelves of giant white bags stacked higher than my head. At first, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of need, but as I breathed it all in, I began floating on a sea of hope, of love and of generosity.
You see, today my coworkers and I volunteered at the Salvation Army warehouse in Atlanta, helping them with one of the final stages of the Angel Tree program, which serves approximately 12,000 kids throughout Atlanta. So. much. need.
Today, we teamed up into small groups and began organizing the large family bags. There are many steps in that process, but essentially, we double checked each child’s bag to ensure that they had some of their wants (toys) and needs (clothes, shoes, etc.) fulfilled, and then we placed the smaller plastic bags into large white bags for each family. In some cases, the donations for one or more of the kids had not arrived by the deadline, and we had to “shop” in the “mall” of donated items in the warehouse to try and find the items on their lists.
This process was both heart warming and heart breaking: heart warming when we saw the extreme generosity of the adopters, and heart breaking when we came across a forgotten child whose adopters hadn’t fulfilled their commitment. In some cases, the heartbreak was all the worse when we couldn’t find items on the child’s list because either there weren’t any clothes or shoes in their size or because the available toys for that age group didn’t match anything on their list.
We did the best we could. The heartbreak turned to joy when we could create a bag of goodies that we knew would light up their eyes on Christmas morning. For the others, many of us had an overwhelming desire to run out to the nearest store and buy everything on their list, but that wasn’t possible. The staffers at the warehouse assured us that all of children would get taken care of, even if it meant that the staffers would do a last minute run to the store, using the monetary donations they received.
All in all, it was an incredibly moving experience. I said a silent prayer for each of the children whose bags I touched, and one big prayer for all who have been involved in this wonderful ministry.
But one question that I had on my mind all morning was: “who are the angels in this program?” I kept wondering if the angels are the kids the program serves. Or if the angels are the parents who, in great humility, stepped up to say that they need help. Or, whether the angels are the people who “adopted” the kids. Or whether the angels are the volunteers who take time out of their lives to help organize, sort, pack and distribute the bags.
After spending the morning in that warehouse in downtown Atlanta, I had my answer: all of the above.
The parents are angels because, out of the deep love for their children, they somehow found the strength to say aloud, “I need help. I can’t do this on my own.”
The kids are angels because they are the beacons of light that bring so many people together in the name of love.
The volunteers are angels because they give of their time and talents, and dig through giant boxes, looking for that perfect gift that will bring a moment of happiness to a child.
The adopters are angels because they are moved toward a greater cause out of compassion, spending their time and hard-earned money to help a child or family in need.
At the end of our shift, I looked back at the shelves full of giant white bags, tagged and ready for distribution. A feeling of peace came over me, and I knew that I stood, not in a sea of need, but in a sea of angels.
Truly, they all brought good news of great joy on this day.