The kid who wanted a door for Christmas

In the spirit of the holiday season, I would like to tell you a little Christmas story.

For the past three years, I’ve mentored a bright young boy named Elijah.  Elijah is growing up in small, crowded house with his three brothers and a sister (all by different fathers — none of them are around). There is also an unrelated 12-month-old baby from another unwed mother being raised in this household.

I started working with Elijah through an organization called Amachi, which pairs adult role models with at-risk kids who have at least one parent in prison. Elijah’s father was murdered when he was two.  His mother was serving several years in a federal penitentiary when I became involved with the family.

Elijah is fortunate in many ways. He is being raised in a loving home by his grandmother. His clothes are always clean and he’s never hungry. His grandmother Patsy suffers from a variety of health problems but manages to get those kids to school every day. She often works until 2 in the morning cooking and cleaning and is almost always exhausted.  When I asked her where she would want to go on a vacation some day, she said it would not matter because all she would do is sleep. In my book, she is a true hero.

Sometimes it’s frustrating to love Elijah so much because he is in such a challenging situation.  Last year, the house next door to his was raided for drugs. Another day, he was telling me about a cousin who was stabbed 20 times and died. Last year a relative took him on “a walk” and then abandoned him alone in the middle of the city, five miles from his house (without money or a cell phone).

When I hear about these things, I feel helpless.  Really the only thing I can do is support him and teach him how to make good decisions.  When I started working with him when he was just seven, he asked me if I would teach him how to be a man.  I think about that every single time I see him and I am determined to do that.

With Christmas approaching, he is excited like every other kid. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he got shy and started drawing a square in the air. We often play little guessing games like this so I tried to guess what kind of a box he was making with his fingers.

“Is it a an X-Box?” I asked?

He shook his head no.

“A Playstation?  Is it a special kind of racing game that comes in a box?”

Again, he shook his head no. Finally I had to give up. I had no idea what he was trying to tell me.

“It’s a door,” he said. “Just a door.”

Now you might want to know why a 10-year-old kid would want a door for Christmas.  With his house so jam-packed with people, Elijah is sleeping in a dining area next to a living room.  Because the dining area has no door, he is awake all night from the sounds of the television and anything else that might be going on with the various adults who might be in the house. So he wants a door so he can go to sleep.

Well, obviously if he needs a door, I am going to get him a door. But here is where I would like to ask for your help.

There are so many other children in need who do not have a mentor to help them with their homework, teach them how to be a man (or woman), or install a door so an awesome child can get some sleep.

Here’s what I want you to consider: I’m here for you every day.  I’ve written almost 1,000 blog posts and have never asked for a single favor.  If you love me, if you love this blog and this community, please donate a few dollars to Amachi today so this organization can keep doing the important work of matching caring people with children who desperately need a loving adult in their lives.

The door’s on me. And here’s what else I’ll do. I’ll match every penny the {grow} community donates to Amachi up to $1,000. This is a national charity that is turning lives around.  Please help by sharing this post and considering a small donation (by pushing the button below) if your budget allows it.  Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Update: If you are just stumbling on to this post, you can find out how this project went here: “The Results Are In: An Experiment in Social Influence. The final total raised was $5,900. but if you care to donate, I will leave this Donation button “on” and will pass 100% of all donations on to the Amachi Charity.

Also, when I delivered our first check to Amachi, Elijah and I visited the Amachi Office with the surprise donation. You can watch the video here: Amachi video.

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  • katie


  • Just donated 5 $ as a stat for you project Mark.
    Kind regards from Germany

  • Dude.., you are definitely entitled to ask. Donation is made…

    Hats off to you for your involvement.
    And thank you for all the knowledge you share.., I’ve {grown} so much because of it.

  • Thank you for sharing this. Mentoring is the way forward for any of us fortunate enough to be able to pass on support of any kind. Have donated and shared on my networks, too.

  • I needed this perspective this morning as I struggle with day two of my sinus infection and was feeling sorry for myself. 🙂 I love seeing you with Elijah in your Instagram feed and all of the fun things you’re exposing him to. You’re a great mentor and I am sure he will be a better man for the time you’ve spent with him! I would love to donate and possibly see if there is a chapter in my area. We tried being a foster family last year and while I loved the idea of being a safe refuge for a little one, it wasn’t the right fit for our family. Maybe this will be better!

  • Thank you for providing a doorway to Christmas, I rather think the way it’s meant to be. Thank you for inviting us to share in your spirit of service. It’s a good way to make merry.

  • A great reminder of what the season’s all about, Mark. Happy to help!

  • Sandra Zoratti

    Love it Mark! Very beautiful, thank you. “If we are thankful, what do we do? We share”

  • Well done, Mark, great job with what you are doing and the post. A great reminder of what really matters – and it’s not even more material ‘play-things’. It’s a door 🙂

  • I have tears in my eyes reading this, since my children are 7, 7, and 8, and not worrying about having a door for Christmas. It’s an honor to participate in supporting this organization. Merry Christmas Mark!

  • Donation made. My son will never have to worry about a door. Nor should Elijah.

  • Tim Ferraris

    Glad to help, Mark. Thanks for asking.

  • Think I just put the hinges on the frame….

  • Glad to have donated, and glad you asked. Thanks for caring about this young man

  • You rock Mark. This community is about so much more than business, it’s about people helping people. I’m honored to donate and more honored to call you a friend and mentor.

  • <3 you. Happy to help!

  • I just wanted to weigh in and tell you that I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response to this post. The social web is a notoriously bad place to ask people to help and take action. Today, you are proving that notion to be a myth. I have literally lost count of the number of people who have donated and wanted to say that one loyal reader donated $1,000 all by herself. I am going to go say a prayer of thanksgiving on behalf of all of you now. You are a blessing beyond measure. This is my best day as a blogger. Thank you.

  • Mark. Thank you for sharing Elijah’s story. Amachi is a a great organization. This should be evidence enough for all the doubters that bloggers and their readers believe there is more to life than “Likes” or “Follows”. Happy Holidays. I hope to see you around K-Town.

  • Mark, my heart resonates with yours. God bless you and precious Elijah.

  • Everything about this is beautiful, Mark. Of course I’ll take part.

  • Great post and thanks for letting us help.

  • Thank you for letting us help, Mark! Thank you for teaching Elijah how to be a man. I could not think of a better teacher. Thank you for giving him a door. And thank you for making the world a better place. What you do makes waves and creates ripples. The world needs more people like you!

  • Donation happily made, Mark. Every single day, you inspire me.

  • Donation made. I’ve often wondered about Elijah in your Instagram pics. He sounds like an awesome kid and he’s lucky to have you. Thanks for giving him a door and us a window into your relationship with him.

  • Count me in. Please pass along our best wishes for Christmas to Elijah and thanks for telling us about Amachi, Mark.

  • Done and done.

    I’m so glad Elijah has you in his life. There are so many heartbreaking stories like this out there and so many children that are growing up in such difficult circumstances. Several years ago, I worked at a non-profit school in Chicago with a very similar population – the children were from families where a parent was in prison, suffering from drug abuse, etc. (

    Sadly, this is very cyclical. Getting kids out of this environment and surrounded by positive role models is critical. So glad you’re doing your part, Mark.

  • One of the best Christmas stories ever. Simple and true. Thanks Elijah, Mark and amachi. Merry Christmas!

  • Happy to help! This is a great thing you’re doing, Mark. I give you massive respect for the difference you’re making in the life of this kid. Well done!

  • <3

  • And remember Mark, you created this community. This is a reflection of how you have treated us. I’m honored to be part of it and feel very, very blessed to know you and the businesses grow community.

  • You are absolutly right Don

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  • Great cause, Mark — happy to help open doors as you bust them down.

  • This is lovely, Mark – I have of course shared and made a token donation. I hope you can help many children get their doors. Thank you for raising this issue today, and thank you for inspiring us every single day. Happy Holidays, Mark!

  • Mark, you are a constant source for information and
    inspiration. Thank you for this moving story and your role – modeling for
    social good!

  • Thank you so much for this Mark. I am huge believer in mentoring! This was Inspiring, heart warming, thought provoking, and truly amazing.

  • Mark. This IS the best part of Social Media. You are one of the best parts of the media I chose to be Social with.

    *wipes tears from eyes, gets out bank card*.

    Thanks for the sharing this story. You have no idea how much you impacted me and most importantly my heart.

    Thank you.

  • One of my mother’s church groups works with a charity like this, helping kids whose parents are inmates. Sometimes it’s questioned, why not some other worthwhile cause and it’s this – these kids are just kids and they need help, simple as that. Happy to help Mark, wish you and Elijah only the best. FWIW.

  • You are a good man, Charlie Brown 🙂 I am honored to be able to help out in any way possible. Thank you for the opportunity to help out Elijah and the other kids. And, thank you for the kind and generous work that you’re doing to make our world a better place. The world needs more Mark Schaefer’s.

  • Jenn Whinnem

    I did a project related to CIP. Issue near and dear to my heart ( describes the project) thanks for bringing this issue to light.

  • I am so grateful and inspired by you, Thank you for bringing awareness, together we can make a difference, with a small donation we can provide blessings. God Bless!

  • I am preparing a special thank you message for all donors. What is your name? : ) Thanks!

  • So overwhelmed. A door provides a sense of peace, of privacy, of dignity. What a thing to take for granted. I feel so grateful. Wishing the best for this young man.

  • What a wonderful story! Just think what this world could be like if each one of us took a child like Elijah under our wing. You have inspired me to help:) Thank you for sharing with us and caring so much, too.

  • Shelley

    Mark, your post moved me to tears, and i head off to Paypal to donate a nano-second after I finished reading it. Thank you.

  • Hi Mark, I just read this post over the week-end and I know that Elijah will do very well in his life with your help and support. Reading this post makes me think about how lucky I am to be abel to support my family. Thanks for sharing, donation submitted.

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