An Interview with Angel Tree Founder, Mary Kay Beard
- Friday, December 13, 2002
Crosswalk.com: How did He do that?
Beard: While I was in the county jail awaiting trial, there was a group of people who came to the jail for a Sunday school class. I arrived just days before Christmas, and they had also provided Christmas gifts for every inmate. I was really touched, because I certainly didn't expect to be included as I was a stranger and they didn't know I was coming.
Later, I was in prison for several more Christmases and began to note a phenomenon occurring over and over. Many groups came to prison during the Christmas holidays; they brought gifts and sang Christmas carols and gave us a little tract or whatever. The women who never went to a chapel program always went to those programs, primarily to get whatever was being given away.
Initially I was rather cynical about that, but then I noticed that the women would take those gifts and they would give them to their own children. The gifts were just little bits of toiletry items: a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste. And they would take those and wrap them up for their kids.
I realized that a mother's heart doesn't really change toward her children, even when she has broken the law in many other ways. It's still the heart of a mother to give to her children and sacrifice her own needs.
I was also surprised by the children -- I expected them to be upset, because children are not known for really being thrilled with a bar of soap, whether it's Christmas or not.
Crosswalk.com: That's true.
Beard: And yet each one of them would always give Mama a big hug and say, "Oh Mama, thank you. I love you." Then I realized that although mankind is depraved, when children are with people they love, things aren't as important to them as when they are without people they love. That's when they focus more on what they get.
Each of those events touched my heart. Then, years later, in God's mercy and grace, I was released from prison and finished my education. I was invited in 1981 to apply for the position of Area Director for Prison Fellowship.
One of my first assignments was to come up with a Christmas project. My first thought was, "Well, let's do something different" because everybody else was thinking about going to the prisons. I had already been there, and didn't really want to go again. (laugh)
Crosswalk.com: I can't say I blame you.
Beard: I remembered the children that I had seen visiting their mothers and I knew the women would not care if I did not go to see them. So I told them, "If you will give me the names and addresses of where your children are, I will do my best to get them Christmas."
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