Like many people, Jay Banks makes a special effort to help the less fortunate at Christmas.

As WGNO reports, the New Orleans City Council member-elect traditionally fulfills a child’s wish from the Angel Tree at his local YMCA.

Children from James Singleton Charter School talk to their teachers or school counselors, who help them fill out a form listing what they want for Christmas. Members of the community then pick a form and try to make those wishes a reality.

But when Banks looked at the form he’d picked at random from a stack at the YMCA, he found a heartbreaking request. The fourth-grader who’d filled out his form had requested only two things: new shoes and a “happier life.”

Banks shared the form on Facebook, along with how it felt to get such a poignant request:

Put this in context, a [fourth] grade child has the opportunity to ask for what he wants for Christmas and this is what he asks for. A new bike, an Xbox, other toys or a multitude of other things would not have surprised nor alarmed me but for a [fourth] grader to ask for a happier life is heart wrenching.

The modest list left Banks pondering what he’d put on his own Christmas wish list as a child. He wrote:

I don’t specifically remember much about the 4th grade but I do know I wasn’t wishing for a happier life. My thoughts are; what is this child going through; how many other children like him are going through the same things; how can I help; why did I have pull this one?

It was “frustrating” to receive a request like this and feel that there was little he could do to help. Banks wrote that he “didn’t know what to do.”

However, some of those who commented on his post had ideas on how to help the child in the letter and others like him.

And those who had experienced the same sense of helplessness in a similar situation shared their stories.

While Banks may not have known how to respond for a wish for a “happier life,” many of those who commented felt that he was meant to receive the list. As one commenter wrote:

“You chose that one because God wanted it that way. He knows you can and will make a difference.”

To find an Angel Tree program near you, check out your local YMCA or nearest branch of the Salvation Army.

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