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Christmas Surprise

A new email;

“Thank you so much for coming in to our thrift store and visiting the emergency food section, I have this specific family that I think would really benefit from help.  They are really nice.”

I called Finley in to read it with him.

I followed up with a phone call and a piece of paper.

“You guys are the pilots for something like this, our first go at helping a specific family, so we are excited to see how it goes.  There are many families in need, even if 1,000 families like yours stepped forward to help, it wouldn’t cover the needs of the people in need of extra assistance, but I wanted to find a really special one.”

“We are honored,” I told him.

“Well… I maybe should have asked, first, but this family has 6 children…”

“No, no, that’s fine, the more the merrier.”

“The oldest is 14, a girl, the youngest is 1.”

“Ok, great,” I wrote down the info, I was hiding outside, my skin cold, so I could get a decent phone call in without distraction while Maria played twister with the younger ones.  My pencil scribbled scratchy with the cold cement beneath it, bumping my pencil marks.

“Here is her number, wait maybe 30 minutes and give her a call, I’ll give her a quick call first to give her a heads up.”

“Oh, thanks, but we’d take any family, they don’t need to be grateful, just in need.”

After 30 minutes, I told Andrew to keep the kids busy and pushed the numbers into my phone while sitting in my room, “Oh hi, Sarah?” I asked after I heard a, “Hello.”

“Hi Sarah, my name is Amy, did Marco tell you why I am calling you?  I’ll keep it super fast, I know you have little ones,” I felt a little nervous, “I know how it is on the phone with kids around.”

“Oh, yeah, he mentioned something, that it was something new…that you guys were going to help us?

“Yes!  That’s right.”

“I just told my husband, he started crying…”

I thought about those few brief moments Finley and I stood in the emergency food line, how humbling it was, and I imagined her there, waiting with her children, ready to care for her family, no matter what.  And here she was, kind and sweet on the phone.

After thanking me over 100 times, and saying, “We’re not picky, we’re not picky” a second hundred other times, I eventually got her to tell me what was on the Christmas list for each of her kids.  I wrote down the short lists by each of the children’s names.  There were no huge games, or iPhones or fancy things, but ‘new shoes without holes,’ a bedspread, books, pants.  I quickly jotted down all the sizes and we laughed as moms together about our children.  She seemed more comfortable as time went on, less in total, utter trembling shock.  I told her I knew she was an amazing mom and the love for her kids shined through as she spoke about them.   She is the step mom to the oldest two, and you can tell they are close to her.  She is young, just 27.  They live in a small, two bedroom apartment, the three big kids in one room, the 3 babies share with her and her husband.  “The biggest we could find for our budget, my daughter gets made fun of for living over there…”  She told me she spends most of her time driving children to different schools and talking to babies.

“Ah, yes, my life..” I smiled over the phone as I wrapped up the short lists she shared with me.

I asked her about her and her husband, “Nothing, nothing for us…”

“You have to tell me something, at least for him, what does he like, or need?”

She thought for a moment, $19 Dickies from Wal-Mart–for work.

“Thank you,” I told her.

She was so much kinder than I imagined, and the need was greater than I anticipated.  I asked her where she did most of her shopping so I could get her some food gift cards, if we can swing it.  Emergency food is good, but it’s not always healthy, packaged to be able to stay on shelves and transported, inexpensive.  I would love to give them some fresher options and a sense of freedom even if it’s just for a few trips.  Shopping for my 4 kids can be overwhelming, I can’t imagine for 6 growing kids.

Then finally, she told me the one thing on her heart that she had always wanted, I think she could tell she could trust me, “I’ve always wanted family photos…always.”

“I love that idea!”  I told her, “That’s awesome, I’ll see if I can find something…” I told her.

She paused, “I just think, and hope, that God must be watching out for you,” she told me.

“Oh thank you, He is, and that’s why we’re helping you guys.  I promise, you don’t need to thank us, it’s an honor to be doing this for you guys, you deserve it.”

“Oh my gosh,” she said quietly, “thank you so much…”


I have all these big, practical ideas to help the family, and I would love any help.

If you have ever done something like this, what’s your biggest and best thing you shared with them?  How were they the most blessed?  She has twin girls, age 1, and I would love to get them a bunch of diapers and maybe some clothes since she said they didn’t have anything on their Christmas lists.  The family has a 2 year old, 8 year old, 11 year old and 14 year old along with the 1 year old twins.

I would love any help getting them a gift certificate for a grocery store, or any form of gift card for Sarah and her family.  If you are willing, please email me, I would be so thankful and I would be honored to give it to them from you.  If you are a family photographer who would want to donate a session of photos that would be treasured forever, let me know that too.  Please pass this post on to anyone you know who might be interested in helping.

Our hope is that they would feel loved, supported and tangible relief.  I promise you, standing in a line to get food for your family who is in desperate need is a very, very humbling experience, and I know she does it out of duty and love and grace.  Please email me amy@tinygreenelephants.com

Poppy says she has everything she wants this year anyways, so we are eager to give and can’t wait to help this sweet family that we wouldn’t have found if it weren’t for some prayer, a chair and a pallet.

I showed my kids their picture and they said, “Mama!  They are so cute!!”  They really are a cute, sweet family.




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  • Rachel December 14, 2015, 10:00 pm

    Hi – are any of the kids readers? I have a supply of books to give to my daughter (also Ethiopian – your Poppy’s smile reminds me so much of hers when she was that age), but she loves the library and we have more than we need. If any of them are (especially girls – I’ll mail them to wherever you are). I also have a bunch of Disney themed socks (new) and maybe some other things – I’ll check tomorrow.

  • Maria Place December 14, 2015, 10:04 pm

    I have a nice lot of girl 12-14 clothes that I would like to donate to this family if possible. 760-717-8105. Located in Vista. Can deliver. God Bless.

  • Trish December 15, 2015, 8:51 am

    My sister is a freelance photographer; I’ll pass this on to her and see if she’d be willing! 🙂

  • kate December 15, 2015, 6:11 pm

    i’ll email you

    • kate December 22, 2015, 5:22 pm

      Since we couldn’t get the baby things to you in time we’re looking for a family nearby to give them to. :> <3