The mother and her children stood quietly in the parking lot outside Toys “R” Us.
Mom, who looked 40ish, cupped a hand over her mouth.
Her oldest daughter, about 11 or 12, clung to her arm.
Two younger daughters and a son clutched her skirt, gazing at the Cortez Road store.
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Inside, 175 lucky children with $25 gift certificates picked out Christmas gifts for two hours, thanks to an outreach program between the Bradenton Police Department and Kingdom Life Christian Church.
Smiles and happiness abounded in the toy emporium Wednesday night.
There was no such joy on the faces of the little family outside.
The children had that shy, left-out look. I can imagine what was going through their young minds.
They badly wanted to be inside Toys “R” Us and didn’t understand why mom said they couldn’t afford it.
We’ve all heard that when we were kids.
Probably didn’t understand it then, either.
Yet now, given the times, such words take on a much more serious tone.
I’ve heard them in phone calls from people seeking help from Adopt-A-Family.
I’ve read them in their e-mails.
Like one I received last Tuesday from a Pinellas County couple who lost their jobs and are broke, but wanted desperately to give something to their little girl.
“I want Madelynn to have a good holiday,” the father wrote.
It’s never about the parents.
It’s about their kids.
It goes beyond toys, too.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, a grandmother brought her two little grandsons and granddaughter into Our Daily Bread on 14th Street West.
A heartwrenching sight.
There was no food in their house. Didn’t look like there’d be much of a Christmas for the kids, either, Grandma said.
I don’t think she meant toys.
Mary DeLazzer, God rest her soul, fretted about it.
“We’re seeing more and more children,” said the late soup kitchen manager.
I fear more will follow, thanks to the economy and looming cuts by our legislators to Florida’s children’s progams. Think Uncle Sam could send us a bailout?
Before I got done at Toys “R” Us last Wednesday, I took another look out the window.
The mother and her children had left the parking lot.
Yet I can still see their faces.
I pray their holidays will be happier. Yours, too.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Mannix About Manatee, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write to him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or email him at email@example.com. Please include a phone number for verification.