All Saints Advent Angel Tree
Why do we have such a different kind of Advent Angel Tree?
Several years ago, I read the book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). The author, Robert Lupton, has worked in inner city neighborhoods for more than forty years, lived in a poor neighborhood for the last thirty years, and raised his children there. Lupton contends that when well-to-do people continually give away things for free – to able bodied people in non-emergency situations – the recipients’ reactions gradually evolve from appreciation, to expectation, to a sense of entitlement, and finally to dependence. This kind of charity he calls “toxic charity.” In particular, he discovered only after moving to a poor neighborhood, that male heads of households can feel emasculated at Christmas time as their children learn that “all the really good stuff comes from rich people and it’s free.”
I guess I was sold on the book because we had had the typical kind of Angel Tree for several years here at All Saints. I had gotten names of children from two people I trust – one Hispanic woman in the Oaks, the other Pastor Paul Hamilton of the Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Bluffton. But I had had the same experience that Lupton describes – that at first heads of families were thrilled, but by the third or fourth year, a sense of entitlement had definitely set in. Kids were asking for very expensive gifts, and once when I called the family of a child who had asked for a $300 gift, because I was afraid that nobody would take the tag from the tree, the grandmother who answered the phone said with exasperation, “Well! Then just get him jeans!”
Mr. Lupton says that the key to successful giving – to able bodied people in non-emergency situations – is some kind of exchange. And that’s what we do. Our Angel Tree invites All Saints’ parishioners to take one of two kinds of tags:
One kind of tag invites the donor to give a $25 check to All Saints, so that a $25 Wal-Mart gift card can be given to a child who has faithfully attended the Neighborhood Outreach Connection’s afterschool study program on Hilton Head Island. (The exchange here is hard work for a gift card.)
A second kind of tag invites the donor to buy clothing, a game, or a toy for the One-Day Christmas Store held at the Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Bluffton. (The exchange here is paying money for wonderful Christmas gifts that are marked down 75%. So a $40 gift sells at the one-day store for $10; a gift worth $20 sells for $5, and so forth.)
When I shared my concern about “Toxic Charity” with Pastor Paul Hamilton, he said, “Sandy, that’s the problem I have to deal with every day.” He was much relieved when we went to the one-day Christmas Store at his church, even though it’s a lot more work for him.
The money made at the One-Day Christmas store is given to charity – usually to the American Cancer Society. The leadership of the Bible Missionary Baptist Church chooses the charity.
Any questions about the Advent Angel Tree? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you so much for supporting our Angel Tree.