Today, we completed what is probably my favorite holiday tradition. We take the kids to Toys R Us, give them each $20, and have them shop. You’re probably thinking, “That sounds like a horrible tradition.” The kicker is that they aren’t shopping for themselves or even each other. They are buying toys for kids that they have never met and will never know. The things that they buy will never be in our house, and most of the time, they’ll never even leave the store. They take their money and they try to find something that a kid their age would enjoy. We go to the register, pay for the gifts, and then we leave them in the Toys for Tots box on the way out the door.
The Navy has been good to me. We never had much when I was growing up (although it is worth mentioning that we were never left wanting during Christmas). After 13 years in the Navy, I’ve done well enough that my family is comfortable. We’re certainly not rich, but we don’t have expensive tastes either. Sure, I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time away from the family over the years, but it’s worth it knowing that my kids will have money to go to a good school one day. We are able to get the kids whatever they want for Christmas, but we also fully understand that’s not the case for everyone.
Growing up the way I did helps me to not take what I have now for granted, and we want to make sure that’s also the case for our children. We want them to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as them. One of the ways we do this is with Toys for Tots.
I’m a huge fan of Toys for Tots. I love the fact that there are boxes set up inside toys stores. I love the fact that every single thing that is placed into that box will go to a kid somewhere. I love the fact that it’s supported by the Marines who are very high on my list of favorite people (I’ve spent most of my time on amphibious ships, so I’ve spent nearly as much time working with marines as sailors). My favorite thing is that they actually post marines at the boxes. Not only are kids donating to a worthy cause, but they are also showing respect to the military which I am a fan of for obvious reasons.
Our daughter is old enough now that she understands what she’s doing, and she actually looks forward to it. This year, she picked out a very cool color magic thing that allows kids to color without making a mess. When the time came for her to drop it into the box, she did it with a smile on her face, and then turned towards the male marine that was standing there and said, “Semper Fi” (I asked her to say it).
Our son, on the other hand, is younger, and we weren’t sure how he would react. It’s not easy for a 2 year old to buy a toy that he wants and then give it away. That’s a tough concept to understand. He picked out matchbox cars which are his absolute favorite, so I saw trouble brewing. Since the packs he picked out were only $7, we let him get 3. After paying for it, we walked over to the box. My wife picked him up because the box was so huge (and full, which is awesome). Our son tossed the packs of cars into the box 1 by 1. After the last one dropped, he turned towards the female marine, and in a tiny voice said, “Semper Fi.”
My kids continuously amaze me, and I am always proud of them, but that was a pretty special moment. This is definitely my favorite tradition of the holiday season.