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Eric Bergeson

Down on the Farm: Christmas mission

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My only Christmas gift purchases this year were at the Toys-R-Us store in Phoenix where I picked up some toys for kids I will never meet.

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I wasn't there on my own volition. I was dragged there by a long-lost Bergeson cousin named Tina who found me on the internet last year.

Tina lives in Phoenix, so we have gotten together for lunch a few times since I arrived in the Southwest. An ordained minister, Tina is one of those caring types who takes in deaf dogs and cares for poor people and prisoners. She asked if I wanted to help with her Christmas project to help poor children. How could any decent person say no?

We were given five children by the agency. Several gift items were suggested for each. A couple of the kids had specific requests. These are children without parents who aren't able to be put into foster care due to the severity of their disabilities. They are wards of the state.

As we drove to the toy store, Tina read each of their stories from the print-out.

Two of the girls requested blankets. Can you imagine a child in this day and age requesting a blanket for Christmas?

Once I heard their stories, I jumped aboard Cousin Tina's crazy toy train.

We tore through that toy store and filled up my trunk with toys, a radio, blankets, quilts, what have you. The items on the list were suggestions, from which we were to choose one. Tina bought them all.

We took the mounds of toys to Tina's house where she spent nine hours wrapping the gifts and festooning them with ribbons and name tags as professional as you'd see in the window of Sak's Fifth Avenue.

We were to deliver the gifts to the children, or so we thought, but we never heard back from the social worker where we were to bring them. So naturally, Tina decided we would plop them on the social worker's desk. The social worker's office is on the ninth floor of a huge government building in downtown Phoenix. How would we get all those gifts up to his office?

No problem. Tina had it all figured out. She would pull off the street and up on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance of the building and stand guard while I took bag after bag upstairs to the office.

"Do they know we're coming?" I asked.

"No," said Tina, you just tell them we're "making a delivery."

As planned, we pulled up onto the sidewalk in front of the main entrance of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Phoenix. I loaded up one load, and took the elevator to the ninth floor. When I got there, it was apparent that this was not the place where the gifts were to be delivered. The receptionist was aghast.

I said, this is just the start, so while you figure out what to do with these, I'll go get the next load. I didn't tell her there would be six loads altogether. By the next trip up, more bureaucrats appeared. They couldn't believe the mounds of gifts. This was not standard procedure.

Meanwhile, Tina stood guard over her SUV, illegally parked on the sidewalk. No cops came. If they had, she would have talked them into giving donations for more gifts.

By the sixth trip up to the ninth floor, the entire staff was in the lobby staring at the mound of gifts. They were happy, if perplexed. The man in charge of the program wasn't in. I suggested they put the gifts on his desk.

"Who are these from?" they asked.

"My crazy cousin Tina," I answered.

"Who are they for?" they asked.

"The names are on the tags," I said.

Having dumped a truckload of gifts off in the wrong place, I took the elevator down to the lobby, jumped in Tina's SUV and we took off.

"That's how I like to do things," Tina said sweetly as we roared away. "Hit and run."

After not hearing from the man in charge for weeks, apparently the 37 boxes on his desk got his attention.

"You are amazing!" he wrote in a three-word email to Tina. I agreed. And I figured it wasn't a bad way to deal with the Christmas gift-giving dilemma.

Anybody who expects a gift from me will be told that I already bought a bunch of toys for kids I'll never meet.

I suspect they'll be fine with that.

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