The Gift of Empowerment

Tasha Farmer, FCNI Emergency Shelter Supervisor
December, 15, 2021 -

The holiday season can truly be a magical time for us all. It is wonderful to spend time with family, have big holiday dinners and, of course, give and receive presents. It is a time to celebrate and Give Joy. But for some, the holidays can be absolutely dreadful. Holidays are expensive and, as a struggling parent, fear can take over, knowing that you won’t be able to provide for your child. A distressing reminder that due to current circumstances you cannot make ends meet let alone make the holidays special. 

I personally have been blessed with the means to provide for my children, and with a large family support system with whom I celebrate the holidays. However, this has not always been the case. When my children were young (my son was 5 years old and my daughter 2), I found myself barely able to make ends meet. My husband and I had just separated and I found myself in the position of scrambling to put a roof over my children's head. Christmas was a few weeks away and the thought of the holiday made me physically ill. I could barely ensure my children had enough food to eat, so how on earth could I even think about getting them presents and making Christmas special? I was at such a low point in my life. I felt alone, isolated, and truly like I was a failure. Christmas was not a season of joy for me. It was a slap in the face that I was not good enough for my children. 

As long as I can remember there have been community resources that would provide presents for local children in need. Knowing this, I knew it was possible to make sure my kids would receive a gift. But being given a present for my children did not make me feel any better as a parent. They were my kids. I wanted to get them a gift. I wanted to pick out their presents and make the holiday special for them. Having this parental joy taken from me felt so disempowering and increased my feelings of worthlessness. 

A week before Christmas, a local community outreach program reached out to me and let me know that they would be giving me a gift card for the holidays. This gift changed everything for me. I felt so empowered. This gift card meant the world to me. I was able to go to the store and pick out meaningful gifts for my children. I was able to purchase food that I wanted to make for Christmas dinner. I was given the gift of being able to do something for my children, the way that I thought was best. The impact of this gift went so much farther than getting a present already wrapped for my kids. Yes, while ultimately the outcome was the same--my kids got presents and had a great holiday meal--but because of this gift, my life was changed. I was given the gift of empowerment. I was given the opportunity to do for my children in a way that I thought best, and in a way that had previously been unavailable to me. 

I know it is fun to go shopping and pick out gifts for children. It’s a lot more fun than just purchasing a gift card, right? But from personal experience, let me tell you that giving a gift card can be so much more powerful to a family experiencing challenges, and may have an impact that goes far beyond just the holidays. It can give some parents much needed hope, and help to increase their self-esteem and self-worth as they experience the joy of providing for their family in the way they see fit. Every parent wants the opportunity to experience this special kind of holiday joy--this sacred parental high point. Giving the gift of empowerment truly embodies the power that can be found during this “season of giving”--and you have no idea how impactful it can be!