“You listen to me and you listen well,” my grandfather said as he looked into the eyes of the seven-year-old me. “It doesn’t matter what you get for Christmas. What matters is how you give. Those are the gifts you remember.” he said. I looked up at him, nodded, and continued to stare at the presents gleaming from underneath the bright sparkling tree. Although I did not think much of his words then, I always remembered them. It was not until years after his death when I realized exactly what his words meant.
“I’ve got a size 5 girl’s shoe!” I shouted from my side of the room.
“Susie wears a 5. Put her name on that box. Does anyone have a boy’s 7 shoe? I can’t find John’s shoes!” my mom yelled from the other side of the room.
Shoes, coats, outfits, toys, wrapping paper, and people filled our living room. The sound of paper being cut, tape being ripped, and people laughing rang through our house. We worked late through the evening trying to get all of the gifts wrapped. Eighteen little boys and girls were anxiously awaiting their Christmas party for their head-start class. They were not expecting any presents, Santa, or any of his elves to visit them at their party–or even their home for that matter. Little did they know what they would find the following morning. My family and I could hardly contain our excitement.
I can not tell you a single item I received that Christmas. I do not remember what my stocking held, or if I even received anything I wanted. I do however, remember that the only thing a little boy named William in that class asked for was a cowboy hat. I remember three little girls were so excited to get their coats that they wore them the entire time–regardless of the sweat rolling down their already pink cheeks. I remember that every child, having opened a coat, shoes, an outfit, and toys, chose to put their shoes and coat on before they even opened the toy. Those are the gifts I remember.
Eight years ago we sponsored one head-start class for the first time by simply pooling our funds. As the years went by, one head-start class turned into a head-start class and a family of six…then a widowed mother and her three children. We came across families who couldn’t afford to pay their power bill and families who could not pay for groceries. We came across helpless children with careless parents, and struggling parents with grateful children. But out of all the people who crossed our path, we could not turn one truly needy family away. “It’s like the loaves and the fishes.” I remember my mom said after a busy day of shopping for the families. “I looked in the bag and their was one toy left, then my friend called and asked when could meet her to pick up a truck full of toys that were donated to her office.”
No matter how many people come our way, or how little ours funds seem to be, over the years we have learned that God always has a clever way of taking care of us. Whether He leads us to the store with the exact number of coats we need, or sends toys by the truckload, He always has a way of coming through. When things like that happen, I can not help but think of my grandfather. It’s almost as though it’s his way of saying “See? I told you. You just keep giving kid. It’s better than any gift you could ever imagine finding under that tree. God’s taking care of you. So let Him.”
I know this year will be no different. Our list of families is ever-growing, but God knows exactly what we need. Our fundraiser will help with the bulk of it. My uncle always has a community-wide benefit BBQ dinner, and my mom has a Cut-a-Thon at her salon. Needless to say, we stay busy this time of year! But the hours of preparation, long nights spent wrapping, and endless days searching for the best prices are never viewed as laborious. They are however, what our Christmas is all about–just like the words on my grandfather’s tombstone– “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
The High Road Digital team is continuing the legacy this year and is sponsoring the head start class I hold so dear to my heart. To find out how you can get involved, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.