The "Wish Tree" is easy to pass right by as you're running your holiday errands, rushing to move on to the next store, or picking up your grocery order before the supermarket closes. But the names on the Wish Tree are those of important residents of Missoula, and the holidays are the season of giving, so please consider bringing joy to someone who may be alone this Christmas.

The names on the Wish Tree at the Southgate Mall belong to local children, teenagers, and senior citizens in need. I remember one time in middle school I asked a kid on the bus what she got for Christmas, as you do when the winter break is over and you make small talk with your classmates. She said she got a cassette, I said, oh you like that band? She said no, but it was the only gift she got besides a coat that doesn't fit, so she's learning to like the band, and the coat. Turns out her name was on a tree similar to the one at the Mall, and those were the gifts she received and loved, although they weren't perfect. Breaks your heart.

A co-worker of mine brings his little boy to choose a name from the Wish Tree each year, and lets him help in picking out the gifts. It's a great lesson in generosity, giving back to the community, compassion, and taking care of one another, which is a priceless gift to our children.

Let's pick up a few things that will make somebody's Christmas a good day rather than another bad one. Something meaningful for a local elder who feels forgotten and unappreciated. A couple of toys for a displaced child who doesn't understand why they can't spend the holidays with their family. Time is running out! Please visit Guest Services at the Southgate Mall, take a tag off the tree, and return all unwrapped gifts by December 18th. Thank you for your generosity and Happy Holidays!

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