little girl with a tea set


Little girl having a tea party with her stuffed bunny.

            Early on a chilly December morning in south Louisiana. I stopped at Wal-Mart before heading to town for a physician’s appointment. I had to get a gift for a little girl whose “angel” I received from the Angel Tree at my church. As usual, I waited until the last minute, and the deadline to turn in gifts would arrive in a few hours. I felt rushed.

            The white angel shaped paper I clutched included information. but no name, about the little girl. She was four-years-old, lived with her great-grandmother. Both of her parents were incarcerated. She asked for a warm jacket, blue jeans, and a tea set.

            Both of my boys were grown men with lives of their own. I don’t think I had ever bought a tea set and stood in the aisle staring at the array of tea sets. I held one that was big, colorful, and contained dishes, flatware, pots and pans, and play food. I was puzzled. Did I get just a tea set? One with princesses on it or flowers, or in bright primary colors, or the big kitchen set?

            A woman with two thin, big-eyed toddlers stood beside me. She asked if I needed help with something. I noticed she was pale and not dressed warmly. Her children clung to her legs. I explained that I needed to find a tea set and that my confusion was interferring with my decision making. I wanted to make sure I chose a tea set the angel girl would love.

            In a respectful whisper, the young mother suggested that I not buy the set with play food in it. She gently took the large set from my hands and put it back. She told me the food might confuse the child because she might be going to bed hungry if her wishes were on an angel tree.

            Such a profound request. I hadn’t considered it. I didn’t have to worry about my family going to bed hungry. I never had to worry about that. I asked if she was shopping for anything in particular that early in the morning.

            Tilting her chin up and looking me in the eye she told me that she was waiting for eight o’clock to arrive. She had to pick up a twenty-dollar bill at the Community Chest so she could take her son to the Shriner’s Burn Hospital for Children in Galveston. They were going for a weekly check-up. She told me the money was enough for gasoline and for the three of them to have a Happy Meal. It was a treat for her children.

            I told her I was sorry, and that I was thankful that her son’s health was improving. I smiled and told the kids that I loved Happy Meals as well. Somehow we ended up having breakfast at McDonald’s. My treat. I enjoyed and appreciated that Egg McMuffin more than any I ever had.

            The young mother refused my offer of money, but she agreed to visit the Thrift Shop and Food Pantry at my church later that day.

            Then, it was time for them to leave.

            I haven’t seen this family since that morning and wonder if they are well.

            I didn’t buy a tea set with food. I did choose one with dishes and pots and pans. I don’t know if the little angel girl liked the tea set, but I do pray that as she gets older, she’ll become aware of the angels among us.

            Angels don’t always make grand appearances with light glowing around them or with wings fanning the air. Often, they come to us in the humble smile and wisdom of a poverty- stricken young mother and her two toddlers.

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