I was thinking about memorable Christmas moments from my childhood. While perusing the dusty pages of my memory I ran across a couple that were a bit uncomfortable in execution but have served me well in my life. I thought I would take a little time to reminisce and share one of them with you. Maybe it will serve a second purpose in your life.
I must have been about 7 or 8 years old when the first of my anecdotes took place. I attended a private Christian school at our church at the time. The day came for our class Christmas party, and I was so excited. We were having a small gift exchange, and like all children, I welcomed any and all presents.
The time came for the exchange, and I eagerly awaited the receipt of my new treasure. About the time the gifts were being passed out, my teacher (under whose tutelage I had labored for 3 consecutive years) pulled me aside and handed me what looked like a piece of crumpled tin foil. My young mind could not comprehend completely the words that were being whispered to me aside from all the hustle and excitement of the tearing of wrapping paper and discovery of new toys.
The revelation consisted of these facts: the foil I held in my hands contained a gift brought by a girl in my class (girls exchanged gifts with other girls and the boys traded gifts with other boys), this gift was not a toy as all the other children were receiving, this little piece of foil contained a $5 bill. My teacher, who I admired greatly, said she was giving this to me because she knew I was mature enough to handle not receiving a toy.
Truth be told, I was extremely disappointed. I sat for the rest of the party watching all of the other children enjoying their new action figures, dolls and games. All the while, I was holding that tin foil with the $5 bill wishing I was holding a toy. I think my teacher gave me much more credit than was due. However, my parents had drilled into me the appropriate reaction to receiving a gift that was less than thrilling. I smiled, said thank you and joined the other kids.
My reaction (the unseen one) was selfish. I failed to think about the little girl who had to bring the $5 bill wrapped in tin foil. As a 7 or 8 year old, I never considered how embarrassed she probably was by the whole thing. I mean, even at that age you know that a gift comes wrapped in paper, not foil.
Of course, today, I would love to receive a $5 bill wrapped in any material you like. Now, I would see that $5 as an endless array of possibilities in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby. If I was being extravagant, I would see a $5 bill as a treat at Starbucks - a nice cinnamon dolce latte, perhaps. Back then, it represented disappointment.
When I arrived at home, my parents asked what I had received. I explained the whole story, and they shed some parental wisdom on the situation. They helped me to understand how important was my reaction to the circumstances. My mom and dad instructed me to consider the feelings of the giver. More importantly, they gave me scriptural teaching by referring me to Acts 20:34-35 where I learned that it is "more blessed to give than to receive."
Now, much older and I hope a little wiser, I am grateful for that experience. I learned some valuable lessons that day. That is not to say that I never had another opportunity to learn those things, but this is the one that taught me to walk in another person's shoes.
This is the experience I consider each year as we try to give something to someone less fortunate than ourselves. I think about how I would feel should I be unable to give my child a gift on Christmas. These are the lessons that I try to impart to my little girl, so she will have the grace and maturity required should she be placed in that same situation.
I suppose the lesson for me is that there is a lot of learning that takes place in our children's lives at this time of year. Let's make sure that they are learning the right lessons.