The Christmas lists grew every year and when they stopped growing in number of items, they grew in how much the gifts cost. It wasn’t just a ten dollar action figure anymore, but a ninety dollar remote control car. Then it became “If you only get me one thing this year, I would love” some two hundred dollar gizmo. My children have lived with me since they were born. They’ve watched as we had plenty and when we had nothing. Furthermore, they know how I feel about gifts. I’m never buying just one thing and I will never be able to spend over two hundred on a gift. Still, they think it’s worth a shot, I guess, and so they keep asking. It is, after all, the season for it.
The one thing I will say about my kids is that they are never disappointed. Or if they are, they hide it very well, because all I see is the appreciation on their faces for what they did get. If anyone is disappointed, it’s usually me at not being able to get them everything they really wanted. I’ve listened to people grumble about what they received and for a while I just shrugged my shoulders and ignored it. We all receive those gifts occasionally that make us wonder what in the world the person was thinking when they picked that out for us. Still, we make all the right noises and quickly add it to the garage sale box.
However, about twelve years ago, I began to see Christmas just a little differently. That year, I joined a mission trip to Haiti to pass out Christmas shoe boxes to the students in their three schools. People put together a package for either a boy or a girl and filled it with all manner of things to brighten a child’s Christmas. It has been a great tradition started by several ministries and I was excited to be a part of it that year.
All the children were gathered together and one by one they came up and were handed a pretty wrapped shoe box. Everyone returned to their seats and patiently waited to open the lids and see what some person who didn’t even know them had sent. The count was called out. One. Two. Three. Open Your Boxes! The place erupted with squeals of delight as lids were tossed to the side and tiny items were brought out and bragged about to those within earshot.
I just sat and smiled. “Look what I got!” I heard it over and over as each new item was brought forth. Small cars. Balls. Jacks. One little boy received underwear that he thought was the best gift ever as he twirled them over his head with excitement. Each of the gifts could have been purchased at a dollar store and it seemed as if most were. Yet, the kids didn’t care. These were precious treasures to them and for most, it was the only gift they would receive all year. These children hadn’t made Christmas lists to Santa. I’m not even sure they knew of that jolly old man. They didn’t know to be disappointed by what they held in their tiny hands. All they knew was that someone thought of them and provided a little Christmas magic.
Those are the eyes through which I view Christmas - the eyes of appreciation. I am thankful that I was thought of by someone I love, that they took the time to search out a gift that they thought would mean something to me. I’m not one to feel guilty that I was born in a country and to a family that is successful. I’ve never told my kids to eat their vegetables because in some Third World Country some kid was starving. Just because someone is suffering doesn’t mean we who are not should feel guilty or eat foods we don’t like. It does, however, mean we should receive everything with a spirit of thankfulness and appreciation. So this year, if your Aunt Martha buys you underwear again, just twirl them over your head and squeal with delight. She’ll appreciate that.
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