PLEASE SEE UPDATES BELOW!
Today marks the SEVENTH (!) annual James Garfield Miracle. Short story: I bought a very jolly but kinda f-ed up boar head (named James Garfield) and Victor thought I was crazy so I sold some homemade Xmas cards to make up the $90 I paid for him but I made so much I decided to give the money back to parents struggling to buy a toy for their kid.
It went quickly but as soon as I ran out of cash a ton of other people stepped up and asked if they could send toys to strangers and it grew into an annual event. Each year I think will be the last year but each year people who were helped in the past ask if we’ll do it again so they can give back. For those who like something easier we also give to Project Night Night, an organization that gives a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to kids living in shelters, and also to Heifer because it’s nice to be able to donate the ass end of a water buffalo on the behalf of relatives that you don’t really like. As always, there are no sponsors, no rules and no one gets anything out of it except the happiness of helping total strangers.
So here’s how it works: If you are struggling this year and you don’t know how you are going to buy a present for your child (or children) then do this…make a wish-list on Amazon (SEE UPDATES BELOW) and leave a comment below (with the age of your child, a link to your wish list, and anything else you want to share).
Here’s the basic FAQ because we’ve done it enough to know the problems:
- How do I post my wishlist so that my kid gets a present?
Log in to Amazon and under “Account & Lists” choose “Create a list”.
Name your list something and choose “PUBLIC” and “Create List”:
Find the thing you want to put on your list and then choose the list from the drop down:
Now you have to make sure that you’ve added a shipping address to your new wishlist so go to it and choose “list settings”:
Then go to the list and click “view details”:
Here you have to create a new shipping address or you won’t get anything. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS. If you don’t then people will see your list but can’t mail it to you. People can’t see your full address though (just your town) so it’s still private. This is also where you can write a description of your kids and their ages if you want to add that. After you make it public and add your address hit “save changes”:
Then go to the comments here and put a link to your wishlist. Here’s an example I made up: I’m struggling this year and have 2 young kids and 2 teenagers. They like books and movies. I live in America. I also added an inexpensive coat and mittens for one my youngest just in case you could help. Here’s my link.
DONE! (Adding where you live is good because it’s easier for Canadians to buy for Canadians, etc. If you have Amazon in your country though you’re good to go.)
- What should I choose for my wishlist?
Picking things that are listed as “prime” eligible is ideal because shipping is free for people with prime memberships. Ideally try to limit your selections to less than $30 per kid so that we can help as many kids as we can. Books and art supplies and movies that kids can share are all great suggestions.
Can I add a coat or warm pajamas for my kids?
It’s really just for toys but you can always ask if you really need them.
I went to buy something from a list but the list was empty.
That is actually awesome. That means everything from their list was bought. Whoop!
I went to buy something from a list but there wasn’t an address attached to it.
Then delete what you have in you cart and don’t buy anything otherwise it will go to you or the next person you buy for. That happens every year. Leave a comment letting the person know that they need to add an address.
How do I know I’m using the right address?
When you’re looking at the wishlist it will say the name of the person. When you check out select the same person’s name’s wishlist address or registry address. If there isn’t one then they haven’t added their address so delete your cart and try the next person.
Are you checking to make sure people are real?
Sort of. There are some things I do to check but go with your gut. I do delete people if I know they aren’t real but most people won’t go to the trouble to fake an account for crayons and kid’s books so use your best judgement.
Can I thank the person who helped me?
You won’t know who they are, but you can totally say thanks in the comments. You’ll know if something was bought because it will disappear from your list.
What if I don’t get what was sent to me?
It happens, but rarely. Sometimes you’ll forget to put your address and your stuff goes to the person who bought it. Or it’s at your neighbor’s house because you weren’t there to sign for it. Or it was sold out and you’ll get it after the holiday. It’s rare, but it can happen.
I can’t afford to buy something but I’d like to volunteer to make something or send a card to someone.
Okay. Just put your email on your comment and they can connect with you.
I want to give 10% off a product I make or let them enter a drawing if they like my Facebook page and tweet a bunch of crap about it.
No. Sorry. This is not that.
Will you be my friend?
Yes. Yes, I will.
PS. I was going to buy a water buffalo in your honor because I think “water buffalo” is fun to say but instead I’m sending a girl to school and I also donated $1,000 to Project Night Night in your name. And now I’m going to fill as many wish lists as I can. The money I spend on this stuff comes directly from my affiliate links and your support in buying my books. so if you can’t afford to help just know that if you came here this year these gifts are from you too. In the last 6 years we’ve given over $325,000 to help kids during the holidays. That is insane, y’all.
LET’S DO THIS.
UPDATED, day 2: Wow, y’all. I had earmarked $5k to give out to people needing a toy or two for a kid but so often when I clicked on a wishlist it was already filled completely. Way to make it hard on me in the best possible way. You are full of magic and I want to lick you all. But I’m too tired so I’m going to just nuzzle you in my head.
A quick hint that might help if you’re looking to help people…ideally everyone would just have a toy or two and maybe a warm jacket on their list for each kid but some people just put a link to their long, running wish lists they keep all year, so to see if the person submitting the wishlist has already had items bought for their kids by others you can add this line to the end of their wishlist and it will show you what was already bought and when:
Also, you will see some people getting quite a few toys or clothes for their kids because they submitted long lists. Is it fair that some get more, when others ask for so little? Not really. Is it disheartening? Also, not really. Ideally everyone would get something but if our biggest issue is that some needy kids get a lot more than expected then I’d say that’s a fairly acceptable problem to have. Also, historically day 3 is when a few scammers usually start to show up so be a bit cautious if you see people asking for things that aren’t for kids. I try to take out the people that I can see are questionable but if you’re concerned at all you can always donate to Project Night Night above and make sure that kids in shelters get something for the holiday. Either way, I am so incredibly lucky to be part of this community and you’ve reminded me that there is so much good in the world, and I think we all needed that after this year. The response from those in need and those so happy to give has been incredible and I’ve cried more than twice. Thank you for helping. Thank you for asking. Thank you for being you.
I love you more than strawberry cake.
Updated DAY 3: I’m struggling to find anyone who had workable wishlist that didn’t have at least one thing filled on it. In most cases each kid got a couple of toys or books, and I’m also seeing tiny coats and small, warm boots flying through the internets. You done good, y’all.
A few clarifications…first off, I had quite a few people send me mortified emails because they had long wish lists and thought they were being ignored because their lists were so long they didn’t realize that they were getting gifts until they started arriving. I think next year if we do this we will make it simpler. I’m still working on the details but I’m thinking something like, you have to create a brand new wishlist for the Jame Garfield Miracle (not a running one used by family because those can be enormous and confusing) with a limit of $35 worth of toys and books per kid, and an option of adding under $100 in coats, shoes, socks or underwear if they are very needed. That way it’s easier to fill, fairer, easier to track, and less likely to result in confusion, frustration or anything else for both givers and receivers.
By day 4 things start to get tricky so I HIGHLY suggest donating to Project Night Night if you want to help kids in need, If you do want to give to strangers make sure to check if they’ve already been gifted (using the code above) to make sure you’re giving to those who haven’t already been helped. I know there are always a few people who asked for a lot more than suggested and it can leave a sour taste in your mouth, but I can assure you that for every person that makes you raise a questioning eyebrow there are 100 other families that were so happy to get a single toy or a book for their child. It’s just harder to see because those people typically post once and get their list filled immediately, and the ones who seem more questionable seem to post their lists 20 times. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone though (even those who make you raise an eyebrow) who wasn’t asking for help in a bad situation that no-one would want to be in, and I love that we were able to help so many people and that so many people felt comfortable asking for a small bit of help.
Day 4: Okay. This year has been a big fat year of horrible bullshit for so many so it makes sense that this year we’ve had a few more problems than usual. I don’t usually touch on drama stuff but I think I need to because of the confusion of the last day. The James Garfield Miracle is about making sure that all children get at least one toy under the tree. The ideal is that each kid in need gets $40 in toys or books, but we leave it open because some cases are unique and for when parents also request a coat or underwear or socks. Every year there are some kids who get more and some who get less but usually they get $30-$100 worth of stuff and are very grateful. For most of the people helped this year that is still the case. There are always a few people who ask for thousands of dollars of stuff but usually they’re ignored because the givers mainly look for people who just want a few things to save the idea that santa exists. This year we had more people than usual ask for pages of gifts and sometimes they kept adding to their lists when everything was bought. Most people who did this were called out on it, and I understand why although I try not to judge because everyone is fighting their own battle. Sadly, some people who received 4 or 5 gifts now feel bad for asking for help because they’ve seen the backlash. Never feel bad for asking for help if it’s for your child. That is not easy and takes guts. Also, there is a huge difference between getting 4 gifts after asking twice and getting 60 gifts and continuing to ask for more.
I’m heartened that a few people have reached out to me to say that they were caught up in the relief and thrill of getting presents for their children so they kept asking for more but now feel bad that they were gifted pages and pages of gifts and have asked if they can send them to others or cancel them. Honestly, it’s more expensive to ship most of these things so if you are one of the people who got dozens and dozens gifts and want to pass on the abundance, the very best thing you can do is to wrap up the things that you need to stay warm and to have a few toys under the tree for each of your kids and then look at all of the other gifts that were given to you and your family and (as a family) make a decision on whether to donate the excess to a homeless shelter, church, or women’s shelter before Christmas. There are always some nearby and it’s easy to drop off (call first) and they always need toys and clothes. Many kids in the women’s shelters were abused and had to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs so they would so appreciate any small thing you give. Also, it is a WONDERFUL feeling to give and a wonderful gift to your children to show them what it looks like to give to others. You don’t have to. I know the panic of being poor. I know the fear that makes you cling to anything and the desperation that comes with it. That’s the reason I started this in the first place. But I also know that giving to those less fortunate can make you feel rich in ways you can’t imagine. This and toys for tots are my favorite things we do each year. It is ADDICTIVE. As in life, this decision is entirely up to you.
I don’t know that we’ll do this again next year (I never know because I never know if I’ll have the money or health that year to do it) but if we do we’ll implement some changes to make things better for everyone.
Thank you to everyone. To those who helped. To those who asked for help. To those who practiced kindness and empathy even when they were angry. To those who struggle. To those who thrive. I wish you all a happy holiday, wherever you are.