Reading letters at Operation Santa Claus never disappoints. I took two friends with me this year, and the three of us sat at a table reading letters, trading piles back and forth, and googling (via phone) toy names we weren't "with it" enough to recognize. Volunteers at other tables did the same. I didn't cry this year, interestingly, but I did laugh a lot. There were some very funny letters.
One girl was very conversational in her writing, stating three lines in "ok, so let's get down to business..." I wish I could have kept her letter. I liked this kid, but her wants were well out of my price range. Including her request for a new Godfather, which she placed a star next to, as she'd done with some of her other top wants. She even went so far as to add at the end of her letter:
"PS: I'm serious about the Godfather thing.
PPS: If you can't get me a new Godfather, then coal for the old one will do."
Another letter was from an adult woman who wanted a house, a garden and a car so she and a man she liked could get married and live there.
- She also wanted Santa to call the man and tell him to marry her.
- She also wanted Santa to bring her teeth.
(I actually really felt for this woman. I wish I had the money to buy her teeth!)
There were touching letters too. One from a child who wanted Santa to help children in Haiti, and asked for nothing for himself. And then there were the usual slew of letters from single parents, ill parents, and parents who were out of work and didn't have enough money for gifts.
Most letters were written by mothers on behalf of their children. Many were written by teenagers with very organized wants lists, some with pictures. Some letters buttered Santa up at the beginning and at the end, asking how he and Mrs. Claus were, and talking about how he was their BEST FRIEND.
In the end, I walked out with two letters and five kids (three kids in one letter, and two in the other.) Most around five or six years old. They didn't have huge wants that I couldn't afford, and I already had some gifts set aside for that age range, so it was a good fit. - I tend to buy small things throughout the year for this. Usually, I buy something for other kids in my life and then think "hmmm... I'll get a few more and save them for Operation Santa." Things like stickers, pencils, playing cards, coloring books.... (I got a great deal on mini containers of Play Doh this year. One dollar for a five pack and the lids have little stamp/mold type indentations for the clay. Michaels, and Target had them in their bargain bins about two weeks ago :) )
I wish I had the resources to answer more letters. Some requests are very reasonable, but there are so many kids in the family that I wouldn't be able to accommodate them all. One child had a list of gifts for her family that was very simple (Cologne for brother, Cheese log for father, Star Wars and Tinkerbell for younger siblings). But there were about ten people total and it was going to add up to more than I had in my budget - especially since I'd already bought some gifts in advance.
I think that's the hardest part of Operation Santa Claus for me. Putting letters back. GOOD letters from nice kids with small and reasonable wants, or from families with very necessary wants, that just aren't a good "fit" for me. I tell myself I can't answer every letter, that I have the ones I have, and that the letters I put back will hopefully be a good fit for somebody else. (Someone with kids that age, or with a bigger budget, - or with four or five Wii s to spare...) I know there are some uber rich people who have answered requests for pianos, beds, and other large items, but I wish there were more like them. Heck, I wish I was one of them!
I met the head of my local Operation Santa Claus this year. Nice guy :) Friendly, fun sense of humor, and great stories about his past 15 years running the program. I also spoke with several volunteers. The most memorable letter they'd read? A mother who asked Santa to give a Christmas hug and kiss to her child, in Heaven.