There were four children standing together on the side of Stewart St. watching the Milton Christmas parade last weekend and I cannot get them out of my mind.

They didnít have a bag for the candy we were throwing like everyone else. They were lined up, side-by-side, all clean and dressed appropriately. They were all different ages but it is the oldest oneís whose face keeps popping up in my memory.

He was probably 11 or 12 years old. All four children were African-American. I looked at the other three with him, but for some reason, I canít recall their faces.

His face keeps coming before me, often since that night. It was the look on his face that wonít leave me. It was something of a mix between amazement and wonder, but there was sadness about him. I saw it with all four of them. 

Being on a float, I passed by fairly quickly so I only had a few seconds to observe them.

I canít possibly know what their situation is. I donít know if they were foster children or if they had a tragedy in their family. I donít know if they were abandoned or under overly strict discipline at home. Or maybe they are just shy and donít get out much. Not sure.

But Iíve been a mom for 32 years and I am very intuitive, even from atop a float in a Christmas parade. I know something about them was very different.

I wondered if they didnít have much at home. It made me think about the families and children in our community who do without. Itís closer to my own home than you might think. I grew up in a financially struggling family. I remember our television being repossessed when I was about seven years old. Whenever our family bought anything brand new, it was memorable. I was restricted on how much I could spend on school clothes and my idea of fashion has never matched anyone elseís. So, oft times I would begin school, middle school specifically, to find I was wearing clothes different than anyone else. I believe that is when I learned not to care much what others think. Iím more about comfort than I am style. This doesnít make my life any worse or better than yours. I just prefer my feet not to be squeezed into shoes that look good but are so uncomfortable, I fear standing up.

I very much prefer boots, tennis shoes, sandals or bare feet. Socks when the temperature drops, but I canít stand stepping in something wet and cold with socks on. Infuriates me, actually.

Back to the childrenÖI know there are families right here in our community who have hard working people and still donít have everything they need. There are coat drives, toy collections for Christmas, even underwear collections going on. Of course, there are food drives.

I know of two groups who have recently formed where a person can bring clothes that donít fit their kids anymore and trade for clothes that do. There is also a group in Pensacola who is doing that for toys.

I wonder if we could form something like that on the weekends here in Milton. People could bring unwanted items to a central location for a swap. It could be clothing, small appliances, furniture, toys, etc. No cost. Just meet on a Saturday at a specified time and if your stuff is not taken, it goes back home to you or we donate it to charity.

Let me know if there is an interest in doing this. Or Iíll let you know if we decide to do it.

Published Dec. 14, 2013