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|Guest editorial: You can provide a hand to hold this holiday|
|by Maggie Lopez|
|November 24, 2010 00:00|
Within minutes of setting foot in the United States, I was the recipient of a toy drive. It was Dec. 21 and the American Red Cross’ presence was already on the tarmac at Miami International Airport, welcoming the hundreds of Cuban refugees who were arriving daily on the Pan Am Freedom Flights.
It had already been quite a morning, having left behind everything the Castro regime forbade our family to take with us, save our dignity. Ever grateful for receiving the care package containing the limited basic necessities we would need for an uncertain future, the children also received toys; after all, it was Christmas.
At the time, unimaginable to us, Christmas would be removed from the Cuban calendar in 1969 when Fidel Castro decided it was interfering with the sugar harvest festival — and having declared it an Atheist country in 1962, all public displays of Christmas and Hanukkah would be banned by then.
Thankfully, we never got to witness this travesty, due to the generosity of our adopted nation and its people, who on this first day of freedom gave me “Betsy.”
Betsy was a “walker” doll, the type whose hand you’d grab and she walked with you. A creepy automaton by 2010 standards, she no doubt had enough lead in her clunky inner-workings to send today’s Consumer Product Safety Commission into a tailspin.
This blonde blue-eyed doll in a red gingham dress, at least five inches taller than me, represented all I came to know about America. She was strong and steady, always available to hold my hand and walk with me.
And as America held our family’s collective hand as we walked safely into middle class, the day came for Betsy to hold a needier little girl’s hand. And so she did.
Today, I serve on the board of For the Kid in All of Us, a non-profit organization that has distributed over 27,000 toys and gift cards since its inception through its seasonal signature event, the annual Toy Party and Silent Auction. Rapidly approaching on Dec. 5 and informally regarded as the largest and gayest holiday cocktail party in the South, it is well-known for the wall of toys that collect at the venue, the only requirement for admittance into “Party Central.”
Beyond the cocktails and merriment, with over 5,000 toys collected last year, many tell me how choked up they get when they encounter the looming wall of toys. What many don’t have the opportunity to witness however is the end result.
Our beneficiary agencies serve so many people — the refugee and the citizen alike, the homeless and the working poor, families and the abandoned — in various stages of precarious health and financial circumstances.
The cynical heart would melt seeing the relief, gratitude and grace that are the common denominators within each recipient. Unlike the gluttony typically displayed in, say, reality-TV-show children, the humility with which these toys are accepted is moving. Their thoughts are palpable: initially timid and reticent, “This toy, for me?” then joyously, “This toy, for ME!”
With a shrinking middle-class in these uncertain of times, a child with an even more uncertain future exists today, waiting for a “Betsy” of their own. This season, let it be you who provides it. A toy today may become a cherished memory of a lifetime tomorrow.
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