San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

It’s Fun to Put Presents Under the Angel Tree

Each year around this time, The Tico Times publishes a list of children’s names provided by the Salvation Army for its annual Angel Tree. The paper isn’t big enough to publish the names of all 7,000 children, from babies to 10-year-olds, who will enjoy an afternoon of happiness this holiday season in one of the Salvation Army’s many centers.

If not for this Christmas-gift donation program, needy children around the country would find the holidays bleak and empty. They, too, are aware of all the toys and “things” advertised on television and shown in store windows, but know they are not for them. Marielos Santamaría of the Salvation Army says that for many of the children, the party, the presents, the apples, ice cream and cookies are the only Christmas they’ll have.

I like the Angel Tree. I have no children, which precludes having grandchildren to shower with gifts. Nephews and nieces are far away and well set for largesse. (Frankly, some kids should get less instead of more.) I used to buy presents for the kids considered “marginal” in my area, but demographics changed. Those kids grew up and got jobs and have small families, cell phones, iPods and all the rest.

So now I go through the Angel Tree list and pick out a child. From the name and age, it’s hard to envision these children. Are they healthy, happy, good students or little devils always into something? Are they sad or abused, or do they look brightly toward the future? I like to select older children, because they are the ones most likely to be left out for the holiday.

Women’s lib has been around for years, but let’s face it: it’s easier to buy presents for girls than it is for boys. Girls like clothes, peluches or stuffed animals, and pretty things of any sort. But what can you get for a 10-year-old boy? Too old for toys? Little cars? Big cars? Soccer balls? Have you seen the prices lately?

Action figures? After looking at Max Steel and Spider-Man with their outrageous weapons, I decide they are too violent. Ditto for the guns and combat planes and the toy soldiers with U.S. flags on their uniforms.

We’re celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Peace, remember? Shoes? I’m sure they need them, but what boy wants shoes for a Christmas present? Remote controls? Then they have to buy batteries all the time, and maybe there’s no money for battery extravagances. Paint sets and artistry? Suppose he can’t draw worth a nickel. Something sporty? Does he have a place to play or just a rutted dirt road?

School stuff? Hey, this is vacation. Computer stuff? How many of these kids have computers at home? Round and round the store aisles we go, looking for something suitable.

We finally figure it out. We pick out one of those Christmassy gift bags and fill it up with lots of little stuff. A bag of marbles. A bunch of little toy boats that float. A fleet of little toy airplanes. Some snappy little racing cars, more than one so he can play with friends. One of those Safari-type jeeps and a pack of wild plastic animals. Maybe he likes to draw; add crayons or magic markers and a tablet. An easy-to-read book or two; religious bookstores have some with neat pictures that are not too expensive or preachy.

A puzzle and a put-together kit. Now, wrap the toys in tissue paper and staple the bag shut, put the child’s name and code number on the tag and take it to The Tico Times’ office at Calle 15, Avenida 8, or to the Salvation Army’s office near Plaza Víquez in southern San José. And think about a child opening it up and having a merry Christmas.

It’s easy after all.

Be an Angel

To select a child or make a donation, call the Salvation Army at 2221-8266, or see the Angel Tree ad in last or next week’s edition of The Tico Times. Gifts must be received by Dec. 15 at the latest, preferably sooner.



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