Georgina Guedes

It’s never enough

2014-10-15 07:15

Georgina Guedes

Last week, I filled out my Santa’s Shoebox pledge. Instead of feeling proud of myself for doing my bit for underprivileged children, the whole process filled me with a terrible sadness for a number of different reasons.

The first thing that got to me is that you pick the children to whom you are pledging a box by name. You don’t just select four kids of a certain age and be done. No, you get to choose names from a list, with genders and clothes sizes helpfully listed. Tshepiso, Siphosihle, Thando and Boitumelo, I’ve got you covered.

I’ve always been possessed of a little too much imagination. For instance, right now, I’m worried that the persistent post-nasal-drip cough I have is actually evidence of slow suffocation because the CO2 levels in the environment have breached the 400ppm mark. So now, Tshepiso, Siphosihle, Thando and Boitumelo are very real people, rattling around somewhere out there with no one else to buy them Christmas presents but me.

Even worse, all those kids that I didn’t pick are also still out there, with no one at all to buy them Christmas presents. It’s a sobering thought.

What’s in a box?

The next thing that got me down was the guidelines to packing the box. Pledgers are told that it’s not a good idea to provide toys with batteries because the children won’t be able to replace the batteries. Also, any liquids or chocolates need to be put into ziplock bags because they can spill or melt, spoiling the other gifts in the box.

The imagined tales of heartbreak at the other end of these guidelines are almost overwhelming for me. Little Thando rushes to open her Christmas box (her only present, remember) and instead of all the lovely, crisp new clothes, cuddly cloth doll and soft, fuzzy facecloth, there’s just a gloopy mass of bubble liquid and melted chocolate. Merry Christmas!

I hope that this advice by the Santa’s Shoebox team was thought out in advance of and not in response to mishaps like the one I’ve just outlined.

The final detail that was like a knife to my heart was the request that we decorate the box in a unique way so that it can be used for storage and easily identified by the child. The shoebox itself is a gift. The thing that we chuck in the recycling every time we buy a new pair of Converse All Stars actually becomes something useful that  Tshepiso, Siphosihle, Thando and Boitumelo will treasure.

I also worry that my gifts won’t be good enough. I have selected teenagers, because they’re apparently the ones that no one chooses (more heartbreak), but what do I know about teenagers? All my friends’ teenagers do music lessons and debating and hockey. I have no idea how to choose a gift that will be significant in the life of a child I’ve never met who has nothing.

Of course, that’s the key. Children who have nothing are grateful for most things. So I’ll get over my own insecurities and heartbreaks and do my best to make four lovely boxes that will bring cheer to the hearts of Tshepiso, Siphosihle, Thando and Boitumelo this Christmas.

How you can help

I hope that Santa’s Shoebox reaches its goal. They’re apparently 20 000 boxes short of their target, which just to be clear is 20 000 children who won’t get a Christmas present if people don’t get their acts together.

There’s also apparently a big shortage of pledges in the Parks (of all places), so if you’re in this privileged area, hop online and make a pledge. The deadline for drop-offs in this area is Sunday 26 October, so there’s not a lot of time left.

You can find all the information that you need at the Santa’s Shoebox website. And if you need a bit of a pick-me-up, like I did, check out the photos of the children’s happy faces as they open their Santa’s Shoeboxes.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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