Authored by: Gina Percival, Public Relations Coordinator at Salt Lake County Youth Services
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
Happiness has been made such a big word, such a strong feeling, and such a hard goal to reach. But I just realized that it looks so far and it’s so impossible because we are the ones thinking that is always going to be out of our league. The thought about working really working hard to get it just turns the magic away.
However, happiness shouldn’t be a state that you reach and it shouldn’t last forever. Happiness is like a butterfly flying around. You never know when you might just be lucky enough to catch it. A smile, a hug, a moment in time is what we get and that should be enough to keep going, to keep trying, and to keep dreaming.
I had that feeling last Friday and I felt a need to share what is like to have that kind of experience. I never thought it could happen under the circumstances, but it just came unannounced. Without even thinking about it the butterfly landed on me.
I have always known that giving brings a special feeling to people. We all have felt it occasionally when we open a door to somebody else or smile to stranger for no specific reason. However, nothing compares to the feeling of providing a present to someone that is in need. Moreover, you cannot even imagine the sensation you get when, suddenly, that gift lights up the eyes of a child and in return the whole room lights up around them. That my friend is happiness!
Sub for Santa made it possible. Salt Lake County Youth Services implements this campaign every year. This initiative matches people that are willing to adopt a family in need and then provide them with some holiday presents. While not everyone can afford gifts for their family, our intention is to bring some hope, joy, and goodwill this holiday season.
The special thing about this year, is that we received letter from Ashley Barney saying “what we want for Christmas, is to exchange our Christmas in place of giving someone else theirs. My children always wanted to take a gift to someone in need and hand deliver it.”
The dream was about to become true, and not just for one, but for two families.
After days of speaking with both families back and forth, we got Ashley, Chamaine Jerman (Ashley’s mom), her husband Clint and her three kids (Aiden (9), Rohnen (7) and Kaylen(4)) to provide Christmas to Audrea (15), Emily (13) and Briece (11) at Matheson Junior High, located in Magna. The experience was unforgettable.
The first one to come in was Emily. She was shy and very quiet. She just sat down hoping that her siblings would arrive very soon. We tried to ask her some questions to break the ice, but she her answers were short and concise. She seemed reluctant, until we mention the magic word: Pokemon. Her face turned completely different, she was smiling all the way through. Immediately, she opened her backpack and in no time, Emily was playing Pokemon cards with Rohnen. She beat him several times, until Audrea came into the room. According to her, Briece was nowhere to be found. Apparently, he was just at the Library doing homework and he was not going to be able to attend.
The two siblings became excited and wished to proceed. We explained to them why Ashley’s family was there and the reason they were bringing gifts to them. Although we gave them the option to open all the presents in the huge bag, the two kids decided to choose one gift to open before Christmas, as this has been the family tradition.
In opening the present, Audrea beat Emily by a few seconds and immediately started to scream. She could not believe she was getting a tablet! Emily’s reaction was not any different. She got a huge Pokemon Collection which she began to hug so tightly into her chest as if it was going to go straight into her heart. Seconds later, she also became very excited screaming and squeezing her sister in joy.
Audrea, who wanted to ensure that what she got was not just an empty box, continued to unwrap and open the present all the way through. Later, she was laughing, screaming, and thanking everyone in the room. However, this time her voice was lonely. Emily just stood beside her and all the sudden she started crying.
“I feel guilty” was all she said and after a short pause she continued “It always happens to my sister and me, every time we get something- because we are not supposed to get anything”.
Every person in the room went dead silent. They then reminded her that Ashley and her family exchanged their Christmas for hers, because she indeed deserves everything, just like any other child. Audrea gave Emily a hug and it seemed as if the two of them were just one single body that lit up the entire room. The two sisters only had each other, only the two of them could fully understand what they were experiencing, and have the strength to keep going. Because this was THEIR time. This was their time to be happy and live the dream, as dreams can come true. Anything else could wait. Anything else was not a big deal.
This was them together. This was them being happy. This was them finding out how the butterfly could also land on their shoulders, as it did. This was them finding out that they, as any other kid, are worth it.