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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Christmas Gift

 This is a story I wrote last year about a real life experience that my Wife had a few years ago. It was posted on my "Simple Thoughts" site right before Cristmas. I decided to re-post it on this site because it is a wonderful story about giving to others and receiving much more than you expected in return. My Wife was gracious enough to allow me to share it with you. I think it helps us all realize the true meaning of Christmas, and what it means to reach out to others. I hope you enjoy it.

The Christmas Gift

     Christmas is always a special time for our family. It's a time to count our blessings, renew our faith in God and look to the new year. It also allows us to reflect on how we can be better people. We also hope to touch the lives of those around us and make them better. My Wife has always enjoyed the holiday season as she searches for that special gift, makes gift baskets, volunteers to help those less fortunate, and tries to brighten the lives of those around her. A few years ago we had talked about adopting a family for Christmas We agreed to keep our eyes open and possibly contact one of the local charities, who do their best to help those during the holidays. As often happens, fate took a hand in our search as my wife learned from a friend who works in the same hospital, of a family who needed some help. It turns out that this friend's husband was a Minister at a local church and one of its members was going through some tough times. She was faced with the prospect of a Christmas with few gifts under the tree.

     My wife had learned that this person was a single mother with two sons who worked a full-time job and was providing for her family. She was finding that once the bills were paid little was left over for anything else. As a parent, and knowing the joy in a child’s face as they rush to the tree on Christmas morning my wife could understand her feelings of not wanting to disappoint her two sons. A few days later, with a phone number in hand my wife found herself talking to a pleasant woman. As Mother's inevitably do, they struck up an easy conversation focusing on their families. As they continued to talk my Wife asked if there were any special items her sons would like for Christmas. I firmly believe that you learn a great deal about a family and especially the children by their Christmas wish lists. All of us have seen children in a mall who while sitting on Santa's lap spend five minutes reciting a huge list. The list often includes everything from the most expensive toys to a new pony. My Wife was surprised to see a short, simple and practical list. It included clothes in the boy's sizes, books and educational toys or games. It would appear that this woman had already given her two sons a very special gift; an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

     With wish list in hand, my Wife as she always does for us, did her best to make this families Christmas special. Along with all the items on the list, she added MP-3 players for each of the boys and a food basket. It contained a holiday dinner, including a ham and all the fixings. My Son who was twelve and in the Christmas spirit, helped her wrap all the presents, and asked if he could accompany her when she delivered the gifts.

     Within a week arrangements were made to meet the woman at her house. My Wife had learned that the woman's sons would be at her mother's at the time of the meeting, so as not to spoil their surprise on Christmas morning. With directions in hand, a car-load of meticulously wrapped gifts and a big basket, my wife and son headed to a neighborhood of small, well kept row homes. There they were greeted warmly by the woman, who led them into her home. First impressions are very important, and you can learn a great deal about people by their homes. The house was small and the furniture was sparse, but everything was organized and meticulously clean. There weren't any big screen TV's or stereos, but there were subtle touches that make a house a home, such as the pictures of her sons, proudly displayed on a living room table. As they talked the woman turned the conversation to herself and her sons who she was very proud of. She had recently moved in order to provide a safer environment for her sons as well as the opportunity for a better education.

     As my Wife told me her story of the meeting with the woman, I was curious. I asked her how she would characterize the woman's emotional state. When she said the word "humbled", it surprised me. I asked my wife a few more questions. What I came to realize from our conversation was that the woman was not humbled by the visit or the gifts, but rather by God and her faith in him. As I thought a little more, I began to realize how this woman's beliefs were much like my Wife and I. We have always believed that you should have faith in God, work hard, try to be a good person, and help others when you can. Do this and everything no matter how bad will somehow work itself out.. We've seen this in our own lives many times. I can't count the number of sleepless nights sitting in front of a stack of unpaid bills, wondering if we were going to make it or not. We've lost jobs, dealt with illness, and weathered the deaths of loved ones. Yet, it seems that just
when things reached there bleakest we would see a little light at the end of the tunnel, and everything would work out. As I continued to think, I thought to myself that maybe this woman's faith, and love for God, had somehow brought her family and mine together for one special Christmas. I've learned through the years that God often works in mysterious ways.

     As they continued their conversation, the time seemed to fly by. Realizing that it was getting late my Wife reached into her purse, and presented the woman with a final gift. Unless you're two women who truly understand the meaning of Christmas you may not understand the significance of what my Wife handed the woman. As she passed over a Wal-Mart gift card, the emotions of the day caught up with both women. Tears fell as they gently embraced each other. As my Wife handed the gift card to the woman, she explained, as a Mother, she knew the importance of buying your own special gifts for your children. This simple gesture of understanding meant more to the woman than all the gifts in the world. After another quick hug, my Wife and son headed home. The drive home was filled with talk of more shopping, a tree to decorate, a Christmas dinner to plan, and most importantly; thankfulness for all they had been blessed with.

     As I listened to my Wife recount the day’s events, I started to think about writing this story. My Wife, at first, was hesitant about having me put this story on my Blog. She is the type of person who helps others every day, not because she wants recognition, but because it’s the right thing do. She felt that if this story was published it would lesson the memory, as well as the meaning of that day. I could understand her feelings, but I felt it was a beautiful and inspiring story. It might bring some good into the world and possibly inspire others to reach out to someone during the holidays. As I began to write this story, I came to realize that on that day, when two women met in a small row home a few weeks before Christmas, perhaps the most important gifts given, were not by my Wife and Son, but by the woman and her family.

     Sometimes the greatest gifts aren't those that come neatly wrapped in beautiful paper, with brightly colored ribbons and bows. You won't find them at the mall, in big department stores, or even in the most expensive jewelry shops. The gifts that mean the most are those that we give from our hearts and minds and souls. This woman and her family gave us many special gifts. We certainly received a renewal of our faith in God, inspiration and a glimpse of the Christmas spirit. The most important gift we received that day though was the gift of understanding. They gave us the understanding and the realization that for all our differences, people everywhere are basically the same. There our almost seven billion people on this earth of different races, nationalities, religions, and cultures. We look different from each other, speak a multitude of varying languages, and have thousands of different beliefs and traditions. Some of us are rich, and some are poor. Yet, when it comes to who we are, and what we want for ourselves and our families, we are basically all the same. Like most of us, this woman wanted to work, provide for her family, insure a good education for her children, worship her God, live in peace, and find happiness for herself and those around her. I guess my family did receive a very special Christmas gift.

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