I thought about putting together a Christmas Gift-Giving Guide for the Christian Parent. But this story, adapted from Dr Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee’s book Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, touched my heart in a way that no list of gadgets could.
Are you ready ready to live the true meaning of Christmas with your family rather than barely surviving another chaotic season of activities that leave everyone drained?
Perhaps you would consider making this part of your family’s Christmas gift-giving tradition.
“It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. I have peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so. It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it—overspending…the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweater, ties and so forth. I searched for something special just for Mike.
“The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son, Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
“Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”
“That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, note inside, telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.
“Each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally impaired youngsters to a hockey game, another year sending a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and so on.
“As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
“Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wised-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.”