"Christmas is not coming to our house this year, Grandma."
"Baby Girl, Christmas comes every year."
"Not as long as Mommy is behind bars. It didn't come last year or the year before that."
For the three years just after Thanksgiving that was the conversation that I had with my grandmother after my mother was sentenced to five years in prison. And every Christmas for two years I knew what I would find under the tree: one outfit and two toys. I was thankful but sad.
Last year was different though: a stranger knocked on our door and brought me a fourth gift.
Grandma wasn't surprised to see her, and she let her in. The stranger sat down and said she had something for me. I was shocked.
She handed a wrapped gift to me. When I looked at the tag, it said, "Ariel, I want you to have the happiest Christmas possible. Love, Mom." Tears filled my eyes. This was a Christmas I would never forget.
And the woman began to explain how the love of Jesus motivated her to visit me that day and my mom last week in prison. I wanted to know that love.
That year was the first time I went to Sunday School, and every Sunday, Grandma, me and my mom have been learning just how much Jesus loves.
Ariel's mom still has several more years in prison.
Thanks to Angel Tree, Christmas is no longer the worst day of the year for her.
Mary Kay Beard, a former prisoner, founded this organization in 1982 to make sure children like Ariel feel a parent's love at Christmas, and the entire family feels God's love all year round.
In addition to providing gifts to children of inmates at Christmas, Angel Tree connects them to a church family and their parents to a Bible fellowship while in prison. Both parent and child learn the love and forgiveness of God as they wait for the parent's release.
Angel Tree hopes to reach 400,000 children this year, but there are 1.7-children whose parents are in prison. With your small donation of $12.58, $50, $75, etc., Angel Tree can reach even more families, taking the message of God's love to lonely children and to parents behind prison walls.
It's not the gift; it's the giver that makes the difference, and when a child receives a gift from an imprisoned parent at Christmas, a precious journey of hope begins. Help a prisoner parent become a giving parent at Christmas and spread the love of God to an entire family. Visit Angel Tree's website and donate today.