Christmas is a time of giving and a time of magic, which is why I've made it a tradition to participate in the U.S. Post Office's Operation Santa program where everyday people can help fulfill the holiday wishes of less-fortunate local kids. As far as I've been told, the letters that qualify for the program are selected by postal workers based on the return address on the envelope (think the projects, really poor neighborhoods)--so they really are coming from kids and families in need.
My favorite part of Operation Santa is that you get to read through as many kids' letters as you like before choosing the ones you want to "adopt." Some of these letters are flat-out funny. For instance, one little boy admitted to Santa that he actually hadn't been good all year, and that he'd done a few naughty things, but that he tries to be good, and that he'd help out an old sick man "if his dad said yes." Many are sweet and come from little ones wanting things like "doctor sets" so they can practice to be a doctor when they grow up. Others—the biggest tear-jerkers—come from older kids not asking for anything for themselves, but hoping that Santa can bring a toy or a warm coat for their little brother or sister.
And then . . . there are the Xbox letters—or, to be more accurate, they're the Xbox Live, iPhone 5, iPad mini, laptop letters. As you can imagine, they go something like this: "Dear Santa, Please bring me an Xbox Live with these four games. I've been good all year." Or, "Dear Santa, Please bring me an iPhone 5. I'll leave cookies by the fireplace."
If you're like a lot of people, you're probably rolling your eyes and thinking these big-ticket letters are coming more from a place of greed than a place of need. But the truth is, that these kids aren't asking for expensive things to try to work the system—they're asking for them because they want to feel normal.
Most young kids—especially kids who have little to nothing at home—really don't understand the difference in price between, say, a playset or doll that might cost $40 and the latest tablet that can cost hundreds of dollars. Why? Because their family likely can't afford either. To that child, both are equally out of reach.
Plus, it's only natural for a kid to want the things other kids at school have and talk about--and right now, a lot of those things (not all of them, though, thank heavens for Rainbow Loom, right?!) are seriously expensive. In a needy kid's world, getting an Xbox Live or an iPhone 5 would take a work of magic—the kind of magic kids think only Santa Claus can provide.
TELL US: Do you give gifts to needy kids at the holidays? Would you be upset if an underprivileged kid asked for an expensive toy or gadget?
To learn more about Operation Santa (you don't have to choose an Xbox letter unless you want to!) click here.
Image of Santa via Shutterstock.