The first day I met my adopted brother was one of the best days of my life.
I remember running home from school at 12 years old, feeling like what was just around the corner was actually miles away. When I barged into the living room, I couldn’t see my parents or the social workers staring at me. All I could see was the four-year-old sitting nervously on the couch. His brown ruffled hair rested gently on his brow, which was furrowed with uncertainty, anticipation, and what looked like fatigue. One hand clenched the backpack on his back, with the other hesitantly touching the Transformers toy on the couch next to him, like he wanted to hold onto it forever but didn’t know if he was allowed to.
I remember our family picking that toy for him, thinking it would be a good “Welcome Home” present. What I didn’t realize was that this was all he had. As he had traveled from one foster home to the next, all he had with him was that backpack, not ever settling in one place long enough to even get his own toy. This was the first present he’d ever gotten.
Sadly, so many other foster children have stories just like my brother’s. That is why the annual Toy Drive at the BACC Holiday Service is so special. During this past year’s Holiday Service alone, we donated over 1,550 toys and $9,000 in gift cards and cash to children in the foster care system all over the Bay Area. Alem Belet from the Oak Center expressed how impactful these donations were to the kids in their care:
“The kids at the Oak Center light up and smile from receiving the toys. It’s a beautiful thing. They don’t have much. My own family and many other people help give away the toys and it couldn’t be done without the support of the church. They do a great job giving toys every year.”
The notion that just one toy, just one act of giving can make an unfathomable difference echos the message from the Holiday Service that hosts this annual Toy Drive. This past year, Russ Ewell spoke on the Spirit of Christmas, referencing the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. As the Toy Drive teaches us, the movie describes the life of a man whose small contributions made the greatest difference to those around him. Russ Ewell called this a life of “Radical Love.”
My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.
-1 John 3:18 VOICE
In the movie, George Bailey does not believe he has a wonderful life. As the Scripture above describes, he lets his inner thoughts condemn him, chalking up his life to be one of failure and regret. What he doesn’t realize, and what we ourselves often forget, is that a wonderful life is not one of constant success or approval, but rather one that radically loves and makes a difference for those around us. We don’t have to change entire systems or organizations. All it takes is one interaction, one act of love, one toy given to make a world of difference.
Be sure to look out for our next Holiday Service this December to help give to children in foster care.