Finding Arianna This Holiday Season

Arianna with Santa.

By Alisa Murray –

It seems that every time I go out, I see a person I know and the conversation always turns to our recent storm. “How did you fare with Harvey?” my friends ask. I then proceed to tell them all about the week-long ordeal – the snakes, the damage to our home and then comes the conversations about insurance and how long before life is back to “normal.”

One such conversation happened last month, and I learned from a stranger that he and his wife and daughter had lost literally everything. What’s worse was that they, like so many others, had no insurance to replace basic items, such as beds, cars and toys. Daddy was working not one, but three jobs to cover expenses, and making ends meet was a struggle for their family. As we talked further, he told me about their three-year-old daughter Arianna and how she had wept after losing her Frozen bed.  He really did not have to say anymore, because I immediately had an idea.

You see this year before what happened with this storm, I had a grand plan to shoot Santa with the children and create Norman Rockwellesque portraits. I had gotten in touch with Santa and secured dates for him to be with me and the children.  Each year I have always done free Santa pics so each of my children could have a nice picture, and my parents would not be tortured waiting in the mall in lines to see him only to have their child flip and the pictures turn out really bad!  But this year was going to be different.  This year the parents would be paying, and the images would be exceptional, not just a snap at our annual holiday gathering. This year was going to be amazing . . . except then Harvey happened, and we all were caught up in our own private tragedies with roofs and floors and new sheetrock. The trauma of it all had tampered with my excitement of the season. Until, of course, I met Arianna’s daddy. Then in an instant, the season came alive!

As soon as the man left our table, I looked at the boys – Brian and James Edward – and said, “I know just what to do! We are going to give that little girl her bed back and all of her Christmas wishes!”

Alisa Murray with Arianna and her dad Jonathan Magana.

I spoke over the next few days with my friends and several agreed that we should help Santa and gather everything that she lost and wanted for this year. Milagro, the Findley family, the Koppuzhayils and of course, my family, all contributed, and I set out to get Arianna a new bed, bedding, dolls, books and, of course, dress up!

On November 5th, which also happens to be James Edward’s 15th birthday, Santa came and with him came a slew of anxious and excited children. They looked at his globe and figured out where Houston was, they cuddled with him and ate cookies, and in the toy workshop, they even painted toys!  Little Arianna came and although very shy, she took my finger, and we walked in and she sat with Santa. She had cookies and did not speak one word but her little face lit up as she opened just one of the many gifts Santa brought her that day. Her parents told me she had not slept in her bed since the storm and that present would be the best one to open early so she could have a new bed now. As she tore off the paper and saw the Frozen canopy bed, she smiled really big!

That, my friends, is what Christmas is all about. Giving to others and making their lives better because you have been a part of their experiences in this life. I hope you will find the same joy this season that finding Arianna has given to my family. There’s not one thing else I could ask for during this beautiful season than to watch a child in need be taken care of by those in my community who understand what the season is always about!  Merry Christmas to you and to yours!