“The best gifts touch the heart of the recipient.” – Friar Telly, II
A Christmas Story
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It peeks through the branches of our tree.
It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas – not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspect of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to buy gifts given in desperation.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, and ties. I wanted something special just for Mike.
Our son, Kevin, was wrestling in junior high. Shortly before Christmas, he had 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 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 – taking every weight class.
Mike 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 ChristmasEve, I placed a note in a white envelope on the tree, telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.
Each Christmas, I followed this tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope has become the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifts the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
We lost Mike last year. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But on Christmas Eve, I placed an envelope on the tree. On Christmas morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children had also placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.
As we continue this tradition, may we all remember Christ and “give” in a Christ-like manner. After all, he is the reason for the season, and the true “Christmas spirit” this year and always.