For years, Third Church folks have come forward eagerly to take part in the annual Christmas Basket delivery to city families who have been identified by the staff of Schools #3 and #35. Almost all of these deliveries take place with no problem; most of the families know our volunteers will be visiting and most of them are very happy with the food baskets they receive. However, every year we can count on a snafu or two; what happened this year was really unusual. Resolving this problem brought together many different people and taught us much about poverty, diversity, immigration and the level of cooperation and coordination that goes into this program each year.
Here’s the story! Brian Adams and his family are new to Third Church. They happily agreed to purchase and deliver a Christmas Basket, and were assigned to call on the Babab family, made up of a father and five children. As all of us do, the Adams family looked forward to meeting the Babab family and perhaps even becoming acquainted. However, to their surprise, when they went to the door, the father refused the food! In all our years this is the first time this has happened. Sadly, the Adams returned all the boxes of food to the church and reported the situation to Rose Pethick, Committee Chair and trouble-shooter. This was a really sad situation for the Adams, because we all know the happiness and hope with which we purchase food and special gifts for our “Basket Families”. Brian and his family were really disappointed; our committee members were horrified! How did this happen?
The next Monday, Rose Pethick contacted Jewell Brown, Parent Liaison at School #3 and our link for Christmas Basket planning, to find out what had gone wrong in church-to-school communication. Jewell and the teacher pieced together what had happened. It turned out that the Bababs are recent immigrants from Yemen. The father works all day in a store and the oldest daughter, Eitizas, a 7th grader, cares for her siblings at home. There is no mother. The family was referred to us by the ESOL teacher, (Christine Valerio), who, earlier, had explained to Eitizas what would happen. Eitizaz was happy with the prospect of receiving this food but apparently was not able to tell her father about it. So, on Saturday December 20 when the Brian Adams family arrived at the door with all the gift boxes, including games for the children as well as food, Mr. Babab thought that he would be expected to pay for the food. Because he doesn’t speak much English, he couldn’t understand the Adam’s explanations, so he refused the food.
When she heard about this situation, Sue Maddock, our School #3 Third Church Volunteer Coordinator offered to re-deliver the food. Ultimately, Christine, the teacher, volunteered to pick up the food at the church and make the delivery because the family would know her and understand the situation. She and her family were impressed by the amount and variety of the food that the Adams had provided, and the helpfulness of Cindy Mark and John Pilato at church. She helped the children to write Thank You notes, and Sue Maddock took a picture of the children
And, how about Brian and his family? Rose met with him at church and she tells us that he is delighted about all that has been accomplished with the help of many, and that this incident would not deter them from taking part next year. Certainly the Holy Spirit was working with all the people who cooperated to turn sadness into joy this Christmas. Thanks to everyone!