Christmas in the late 1980s was a rough time for my family. I’m not going into the details here, but suffice it to say that there were a number of financial and emotional issues going on that brought a lot of stress into our lives.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the magnitude of some of the emotional burdens my parents were carrying; but I was very well aware of the fact that we were struggling financially. Every once in a while though, someone would come through for my brother and me – maybe they would give us little gifts or buy us new clothes that helped cover up our family’s financial distress.
My older sister and her husband deserve a great deal of credit for providing Christmas blessings for my brother and me that my parents couldn’t afford. God only knows how many times Lawrie or Don bought us the coolest toys it seemed like everyone else had – not to mention the times they took us to a movie or bought us a Happy Meal. That meant the world to me, because I looked up to them, and their attention made me feel more valuable.
I still remember that navy blue Coca-Cola Classic sweater that Kay Cummins, a nice lady from church, gave me when I was in the second grade. I was so proud of that sweater. It had a brand name on it; and even though it was slightly too big for me, I wore it with pride until I outgrew it.
And although you wouldn’t think this would matter to a seven-year-old boy, I remember the homemade Christmas ornament that Kay Kammer made for me one Christmas (pictured above). She was a crafty hygienist at the dentist’s office where my mother managed the front desk; and she made this wooden teddy bear ornament with my name on it. That little teddy bear ornament meant a lot to me – not just in second grade – but over the years (it still hangs on my tree). The reason why is because I viewed Ms. Kay as an upwardly-mobile hygienist whom my mom respected. And when Ms. Kay or Lawrie or Don used a gift to show they cared, they lent dignity to a boy who was in desperate need of it.
Maybe there’s a coworker who’s in need, a family at your church with an unemployed mom or dad. Maybe you’re estranged from a struggling sibling whose children could use some love this Christmas. Take those kids to see a movie; buy them a brand-name sweater; get them a toy that every child wants this year – shoot, just make them an ornament. You never know the impact it could have on that child. More than giving them a material gift, you may be giving them the gift of some priceless dignity.