Introducing A Christmas Gift That Never Ends!

December 12, 2013

Hello and welcome back!

It’s great to see you again!  Merry Christmas!

It’s snowing again.  I just looked out of the window of my office and it appears to be going to hang around for a while.  That’s ok.  It’s almost Christmas!  Looking out the window again, I remember a Christmas past.

I was 12.  Christmas was just ‘round the corner and everyone I saw was joyous.  Looking out the picture window that night with Christmas only 10 days away, I was fascinated by the falling snow reflected by the street light on the corner.

Snow was falling!  Jolly ol’ St. Nick would be arriving on our roof in 10 days and all of the presents I had asked for would finally be mine!  I kept looking into the snow as it continued to fall and enjoyed trying to follow individual snowflakes to the ground.

“Hey son,” dad called, “Come here a minute, Mom and I have something we need to tell you.”

I followed one more snowflake to the ground then turned and went over to where my mom and dad was sitting.  He looked up at me as my mom began to cry.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”  I questioned while watching as she dried her eyes on her apron.

Dad reached out and took me on his lap and then told me the facts.  He had been laid off from his job that day and would have to leave the next day with some other men who were also laid off to take a job in another state.  Dad was an electrician and there was an overtime job that was hiring electricians and dad couldn’t turn it down if we were to survive.

In those days, credit was something people just didn’t have much of.  These were days before credit cards, easy home equity loans, etc.  This was basically a cash and carry world that we lived in and if a man got without work he went to where he could find it.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

Since I was in school, mom and dad decided that we would stay behind and she and dad would decide what to do about things when summer came.  My younger brother was eight years younger than I was so that made him 4 years old that Christmas.

Well, I remember thinking that the end of the world had come.  Dad was going to go away and here it was only 10 days until Christmas!

Mom asked dad if he would run to the store before it closed for bread and milk.  He said that he and I would go get it.  That’s when dad handed me the envelope.

“Here son, this is the best we can do this Christmas what with me having to go to a job out of town.”

“I understand,” I managed to say.  I thought about the list I had written to Santa but I was old enough to know that he didn’t really exist.  I looked in the envelope and found a $20 bill.

“If you wait until after Christmas, you can get twice as much for that $20,” dad said trying to make me feel better.  I took the $20 out of the envelope and put it in my pocket.  “Yeah,” I muttered, “prolly so.”

We drove to the store that evening – both lost in our own thoughts.  I was going to miss my dad, especially on Christmas day.  We were a very close family and this was the first Christmas that my dad wouldn’t be with us.  Not very pleasant thoughts were crossing my mind as we arrived at Thompson’s Grocery Mart.  I remember feeling distinctively bitter that my Christmas was ruined as we entered the store that evening.

I looked at people laughing and talking, people greeting friends and neighbors with hearty, “Merry Christmas!”  I felt jealous as we sought out the bread and milk, found a check out isle that wasn’t too crowded and I was feeling about as low as a 12 year old kid can feel, I guess.

As we were preparing to leave, dad noticed a family preparing to leave at the same time.

“Merry Christmas,” dad offered as he held the door for them.  That’s when I noticed something.  The lady was sobbing and the man had a look on his face I couldn’t identify when I was 12.  It was the look of a man totally void of hope I discovered after I had some years on me and had experienced some of the highs and lows in this life.

“Is there anything I can do to help you out?” dad offered as we all exited the store.

“Not much anyone can do,” the man said in a hollow, ethereal tone, “they took the house today.  All’s we have to our name is in the car.  Three kids in the car and it’s Christmas.  Nothing anyone can do,” he repeated as he and his wife walked towards a dilapidated old Chevrolet sedan like people twice their ages.

As we walked up beside of them, I saw three kids in the back seat.  The hollow, haunted eyes stared back at me.  I felt something within my chest that I had never felt before in the 12 years of my young life.

Something inside of me guided me up to that window as the man started the engine.  I remember the look on his face as he noticed me standing outside his window on that cold, snowy, winter night. That look touched my heart.  He rolled down his window and bent out the window.

“What is it, son,” he asked as I just stood there shivering in that dreamlike moment as snow landed on my eyelids.

I reached into my coat pocket and found that folded up $20 bill my dad had given to me less than an hour before.

“Here sir, please take this,” I offered as he just sat there staring at me.

“No son, I don’t take charity, never have and never will,” he stated while shaking his head vehemently.

“No it’s not for you, sir, it’s for your kids – a Christmas present from me to them,” I stated as I offered that $20 through the window again.

He stared at me a moment then said, “Son, you sure?”

“I’m sure, sir,” I smiled as I handed the $20 into his halting hand.  “Thank you for taking it sir, I want them to have it for presents.”

He sat there looking from the $20 in his hand to me as I stood there grinning broadly and trying hard not to shiver from the cold seeping through my coat.  His expression changed from one of stubborn pride to one of understanding.  He looked me in the eyes and I sensed he realized that this was as much for me as it was for his kids.  He reached out and took it.

Clearing his throat, he managed to croak out a guttural thank you as he started the car.  He looked from me to my dad standing next to our car and nodded.

“That’s a fine boy you have there, mister.  You’re bringin’ him up right.  I thank you both from the bottom of my heart.”  They both nodded at one another.  He started that old car and pulled off.  I just stood there watching until I could no longer see the taillights.  I then turned and walked over to my dad and we hugged.

“Proud of you son,” dad whispered.  We got into the car and rode home.  I remember that ride like it was yesterday.  We didn’t say a word.  Dad was lost in his thoughts and I was lost in mine.  I remember thinking, “This is what Christmas is all about.  It’s all about the giving.”

Looking back upon my 12 year old memories, I think that was when I began to grow up.  I never thought of Christmas in the same way after that day.  I remember the Christmas Eve sermon Pastor Hinton preached.  It has stuck within my mind and heart through all these years.  That was a half century ago.

He preached on Acts 20:35:

“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I knew when I heard Pastor Hinton’s message that Christmas Eve that had I heard the same message the Sunday before I would not have understood it at all.  I felt humbled sitting there on that pew as a 12 year old boy.  Christmas would never be the same.

I smiled.

Until next time!  Merry Christmas!

Zach

QUESTION:  I would enjoy your comments about when you first remember experiencing the blessing of giving over receiving!