Twelve-year-old Julia volunteered at Christmas alongside her mom. She wanted to remind hurting people that someone cared. That day lives changed, including her own.
Little Red Gloves
The Salvation Army building in Regent Park scared me the first time I saw it. A large barbed wire fence surrounded the parking lot, and there was garbage piled up outside the door. It was a PA day in December and my mom was taking me and my sister to work with her at The Salvation Army.
We carried heavy bins full of donated toys as we headed up the stairs. When we got to the top, my mom was greeted by countless people, all with big smiles and red aprons. It was the annual Christmas center, where the people in the community could come in and pick out donated gifts for their children. Weeks had been spent setting up and you could tell, the whole place looked beautiful.
I found out I was going to be a personal shopper, someone who helps people find gifts. My first customer was a mom, picking out presents for her six-year-old daughter. After she chose a Barbie doll and a stuffed animal, I led her towards the table that had adult gifts on it. Everyone who came in got a gift, to show them that they aren’t forgotten. When I handed her a pair of little red gloves she almost started to cry because she was so happy.
That’s when I had my turning point. I go on three vacations a year and I’m never as grateful as this woman, and all she got was one small pair of gloves. It’s amazing that something that small could make such a big difference. I thought to myself “what if all I got for Christmas was a pair of red gloves?” Then I had an idea: it doesn’t matter how many presents you get, because the presents you give are more important. When I looked back at the building as I was leaving, I didn’t see scary barbed wire fences or lots of garbage, I saw Christmas.
Note: Julia Dobrowolski wrote the above article for Turning Points, a character development and literacy program where students write a narrative essay about a significant event, a turning point, in in their lives.
Students are encouraged to submit their essays for formal evaluation, recognition and publication. In 2012 more than 12,700 students submitted essays. Julia’s essay won first place.