Christmas Transformed

The first frame has the little boy Calvin, of the old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, writing a letter to Santa. “Dear Santa,†it goes. “Last year I asked for a long-range thermonuclear ‘Smart’ missile and a launcher. Instead, I got socks and a shirt. Obviously, you mixed up my order with someone else’s. Let’s get with the program, huh?â€

Then as Calvin is licking his envelope to seal his letter, he mutters, “Just because he gives the stuff away free, he thinks he can get away with an incompetent organization.â€

The perfect counterpoint to this caricature is a story I came across in a nonprofit (Ministry of Money) newsletter. Let me condense it for you.

His name was Mike. And his widow tells that he hated Christmas – the commercial part of it, that is. Aware of his feelings, she decided one year to do something that would make the season memorable.

The inspiration came at a non-league wrestling match they attended. Their 12-year-old son Kevin was one of the contenders. His school team went up against a group of mostly African-American youth sponsored by an inner-city church, and the contrast was striking. Kevin and his fellow players came out in smart blue and gold uniforms with headgear whereas their competitors showed up bare-headed, their sneakers in tatters.

It was a blow-out. Kevin’s team took every weight class. Each of the defeated team’s boys got up from the mat with a swagger that masked humiliation.

The scene got to Mike. Shaking his head, he said, “I wish just one of them could have won. They have a lot of potential but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.â€

That’s when the inspiration came. Soon after, Mike’s wife entered a sporting goods store and purchased an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and anonymously sent them to the inner-city church. Then on Christmas Eve, she attached an envelope to the tree with a note revealing to Mike the action she had taken on his behalf.

His reaction? “His smile,†she said, “was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.â€

She did the same thing for her husband the next Christmas, and the next – one year financing a group of mentally handicapped youngsters’ tickets to a hockey game, another year writing a check to two elderly brothers whose home had burned down.

The envelope became the highlight of the family’s presentations around the tree. The last thing opened, it brought the children to their feet, looking past their toys to their father with wide-eyed anticipation to see what act of kindness it would reveal.

Sadly, Mike’s life was cut short by cancer. The story does not end there, though. The next Christmas, his wife was surprised to find three envelopes perched by hers. Her boys, each on his own, had placed one. 

The family had happened upon the secret to a heart warming Christmas – unselfish regard for the welfare of others. It’s an attitude translated into a giving that pleases the Savior whose birth we commemorate.

Warner F. Davis a retired Presbyterian pastor. Warner has released a spiritual memoir titled, “Peace in a Mad Dog World: Finding Security When My Need For Control had Failed Me,” through Virtual bookworm Publishing. For more information about his book, visit warnerfrancisdavis.com

 

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