By Daniela Esparza
The Christmas aroma filled the air as I eagerly waited for the time to pass and finally opened an embellished box to satisfy my curiosity.
My belly roared for the tempting rich taste of food that would hit my mouth at dusk. Laughter from my beloved family kissed my ears, and the warmth of their company drew out the wintertide. This was my definition of what Christmas was all about as a young, naive girl, until the year my parents decided to change up our Christmas traditions.
I remember when my dear parents told me that we would be going to an orphanage and donating presents for Christmas. My smile widened at the thought of giving to those deprived children and putting a big smile on their faces. Before we could even donate any gifts, we first had to buy them at Walmart three days. My parents zealously explained what Christmas was about as we drove there on December 22nd. They said it is about giving to those who need the help and not expecting anything in return. I didn't begin to fathom what that could mean until we entered the store. Walmart was filled with the pure essence of Christmas. It had so many different decorations, and it looked like a mini Santa’s workshop. My heart started beating rapidly with excitement as we walked closer and closer to the toy aisle, but it stopped when we passed the toys and went to the resource aisle. I was bewildered. Weren't we here to buy toys for the kids of the orphanage? I asked my mother, and she said that many kids that live in orphanages do not have essential items like blankets, clothes, and food. To help, we were going to donate some of those items.
What she said broke my heart, and I wanted to help in any way I possibly could. I did my best to behave as well as possible and be the best helper. We gathered a good amount of clothes, blankets, and many more essentials. About an hour later, we went to the toy aisle. This was when the adrenaline rushed through my veins. I strategically made sure to get the coolest and best toys I could find for the kids. We bought so many things that we had at least two shopping carts loaded with presents for the children. We purchased many items, such as toys, cars, dolls, bikes, and balls. By the time we were done shopping, it was late at night. My body ached from such a busy day. The car could barely hold all the things we got for the children. Once we got home, we placed everything carefully in our garage until the big day.
Patience. That was the word I had to repeat in my head for three days straight. Waiting for that special day to come was total agony. I had imagined what that day would be like in my head over a trillion times. I pictured all the kids screaming with gratitude and contentment and having beaming smiles on their faces because of our contribution to their Christmas day. Time slowly withered away till dawn struck, and the rooster crowed. The day had finally arrived, and I was delighted. It was a chilly day in Texas, and as my family got ready, we played some classic Christmas chimes. My family got ready in about two hours, which was very quick for our family of five.
It seemed like my family broke our record for getting ready that morning. The excitement of donating toys to the kids and the delightful sounds of Christmas music motivated us to get ready faster. Once we left the house, it took about 45 minutes to drive to the orphanage, which was located on the outskirts of Mexico. It was made out of an old blue house with a large picture of Jesus hung on one of the walls. I made a quick prayer before we even got out of the car. As we carried all the toys to the orphanage's front door, I could feel my emotions change from excitement to nervousness.
I was scared that the kids wouldn't like me, my family, or the stuff we had gotten them. I was hesitant to go inside the orphanage, but I had no choice; one of my parents had rung the doorbell. Then a few moments later, two ladies appeared at the door. They gracefully greeted each one of us with love and care. Before we entered the main room where most of the kids were, two ladies told us that they were very thankful for our contribution and that all the kids were very excited. As we entered the main room, I noticed a big group of kids, which overwhelmed me, so I hid behind my Dad. All the kids welcomed us by yelling "Feliz Navidad!," which surprisingly calmed my nerves, and I wasn't so scared anymore. Then my parents handed my siblings and me the presents we had bought a couple of days before. We began to hand out the toys, and we gave each kid a toy of their own. Just as I imagined, I got to see everyone's faces glisten once we gave them their gifts. Right away the children opened their presents and started playing with them. I even got to play with some of the kids, which was very fun. This filled my heart with joy and compassion. Once the day was nearly over, my family and I went to a delicious restaurant and ate some tacos. At the end of this adventure, I learned many things that will now and forever bless my soul.
This experience taught me two valuable lessons. Seeing all those kids without parents or homes showed me that I am very fortunate and shouldn't take what I have for granted. Also, giving to those children made me happier than if I had gotten a present of my own. That revealed to me that giving to others can be fun, and it is the epitome of Christmas.
At the time of writing, Daniela Esparza was 14 years old and lived in Puerto Rico. She enjoys working out, surfing, hanging out with friends, and writing.