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An unexpected gift
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An unexpected gift

Posted 12/18/2012   Updated 12/18/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

12/18/2012 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- On Dec. 4, 2012, I received an email from a president from one of the private organizations from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. with information about a volunteer opportunity. The message described a unique event in which I immediately knew I wanted to partake.

The Clovis, N.M., Fraternal Order of Eagles, who have supported local needy youth for more than 10 years, were providing 100 children from surrounding areas with a $150 shopping spree at a local superstore in just a few short weeks. Without delay, I quickly replied with a request to participate.

On the day of the event, I arrived just before 5 a.m. and entered the store. I noticed a small gathering of people as well as some familiar faces from Cannon. Officers and enlisted personnel from the ranks of airman basic to chief master sergeant made up more than 75 percent of the total attendance.

The kids arrived on a bus and were led into the store in a single-file line. While everyone waited with anticipation for the event to start, we were informed of the proceedings for the next few hours.

The store was packed and an announcement was made that there may be more volunteers than children available. As soon as I heard that, I made my way to a grab a shopping cart and waited to be paired with a child.

Moments later, a hesitant 10-year-old girl walked up to the shopping cart and I introduced myself. She was soft spoken and, barely above a whisper, told me her name was Mercedes.

I was naïve to expect her to want to immediately rush toward the toy section and throw everything into the cart that she saw. For some reason, I figured this store would be a mad house with 100 kids running recklessly through the aisles, fighting each other over their favorite toys.

So when I excitedly asked her, "Do you already know what you want to get?" I was taken aback by her humble response.

"Well, I need some socks-- and I need a coat." My heart dropped.

As we headed toward the girls' clothing section, I was shocked to see so many children buying clothing, socks and even undergarments. These children were in elementary school and burdened with purchasing items that I would consider necessities, things they should already have.

Not only that, the kids were spending the money they were given on gifts for their siblings, parents and other family members. These young children embodied in every way the popular notion that it is better to give than to receive.

I even overheard one child explain how he needed to get a gift for his 1-year-old baby sister. When a volunteer asked what he could possibly get for an infant that young, he answered, "Well, she's teething now and likes to chew things. Either way, I have to find something for her."

Regardless of what the kids bought and who they bought it for, I witnessed nothing but shopping aisles filled with laughter and smiling faces. Each and every child was delighted upon leaving the store with a bag full of presents and that's really all that matters.

Around the holiday season the spirit of giving and desire to help those in need is thought to be ever-present. However, the hustle and bustle of attending holiday parties, decorating our homes and writing our Christmas lists for Santa often distracts from it.

Although I do not have children of my own, I can only imagine that seeing elation on their child's face is all any parent wishes during the holidays.

The Clovis Fraternal Order of Eagles definitely helped make this possible for so many families in the local area. I am very pleased that I was fortunate enough to be a part of this annual volunteer opportunity and look forward to donating my time and resources to similar events in the future.

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