I once knew a woman who had very little in the way of material possessions. Her clothes were clean but faded. She ironed other people's clothes to make money for her children. There was no car. She walked everywhere, thus her shoes were worn and cracked. She and her two children lived in a tiny corner house that had once been white and they all slept in one bedroom.
I met her through her little boy who used to come into my pet store after school. He loved animals and I'd pay him a little to "help me" by sweeping the floor. He brought his mom around to see me one winter day and I liked her and, since I was nice to her child, she liked me.
Mothers are like that.
When Christmas came, she appeared in my shop, smiling and red-cheeked, with a gift for me. Wrapped in a newspaper were three things - a red candle, four dimes wrapped in tissue and a magazine. She asked if I would open it so she could explain it to me. Blinking back tears, I listened as she said that the red candle would bring light in my life. The four dimes were to be distributed to my four children, and, in the magazine was an article she had found about the true meaning of giving and how we are to love one another.
It had meant a lot to her and she wanted me to have it. I was speechless. Never had I received such a wondrous gift as this. She stood shyly, hoping I'd accept her humble offering of friendship.
I could not close the space between us quickly enough and, with my arms around her, I told her I was honored and would keep them always.
And I have.
Every year, I lovingly place the red candle, the four dimes and the magazine under our tree to remind us of the value of relationships and of giving of ourselves. And I can tell you that amid all the gaily wrapped gifts piled high each year, these precious gifts from my friend so long ago help to keep Christmas in its proper perspective for me.
It is too easy to fall prey to materialistic advertising, too easy to get entangled with spending "enough" on each person on your list, too easy to get as tight as a rubber band on a slingshot because you've spent yourself and your pocketbook too thin. Its too easy to forget that this is the "love season."
So, once again this year, I have placed these three gifts under our tree to remind us of the true reason we celebrate Christmas that has nothing to do with money. These are really hard times this year and, more than likely, there will be fewer gifts under your tree but, ya' know, that's OK.
Maybe, just maybe, it will turn out to be a blessing, not that we have less but that we may celebrate Christmas this year with a clearer perspective.