On the Internet, I found a story entitled, “Christmas story: for the man who hated Christmas”, written by Nancy W. Gavin.
The story begins: “It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.”
She goes on to explain that it all started because her husband Mike, did not like Christmas - “...not because of the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it - overspending and frantic running around at the last minute” - to get gifts you weren’t always sure about.
She said that the idea of getting him something special came “in an unusual way”. As she wrote, “Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team 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.”
Their son’s team won every weight class match, and Mike shook his head unhappily. 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.”
His wife knew he loved coaching kids, and that’s when she thought of his present. She went to a store that sold sports equipment and purchased some wrestling headgear and shoes. Then she sent them to the inner-city church her son had played against, without saying who had sent it.
She said, “On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was a gift from me. Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And the same bright smile lit up succeeding years.”
Finding a need to which she could respond didn’t seem to be a problem each year. In fact she writes, “Our children - ignoring their new toys - would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their Dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.”
While most of us give and receive gifts among family members, it can be a way of showing our care and concern for each other. But the tradition of the above family’s yearly effort to find an individual(s) each year, in a situation of need, was a highlight of their Christmas. And such giving could be a highlight of our Christmas as well.
May it be so for us!
Harvie Barker is a retired UnitedChurch minister who resides in Penticton.