I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have much to work with this Christmas. What can I give ___________? I want to do so much for so many but. . . .
It came to me just two days ago. The names and colors are not theirs, but the basic story is true. It goes something like this.
It was the last day of school before the Christmas holiday break. Mrs. Eirhardt’s twenty-two 5th grade students were sharing candy, sipping hot chocolate, visiting and exchanging cards. Many were handmade from materials left over from other class projects; most of Amanda Eirhardt’s students were from families close to or below the poverty level. Some of the kids were considered to be living in at-risk environments.
Amanda’s eyes were unfocused as she leaned against her desk, scrolling down the years of her own memories of such days in school. It was a surprise, then, when she realized a small hand was hesitantly tapping her arm. Shaking her head abruptly as she came back to the present, she looked down to see the source of the slight tap.
“Merry Chrithtmas, Mithith Eirhardt.” It was Virginia Simmons, a slightly-built, shy girl. Her rough blonde hair was coarse and looked as though the girl herself styled it if it got any care. She was wearing the usual combination of early Goodwill and leftovers from her older siblings. Her shoes were run down at the heels and light–too light for the cold weather she walked through to get to and from school.
Amanda smiled. “Why, thank you, Ginny.”
Blushing and seeming nervous, the girl went back to her seat. As Amanda watched her sit down, she noticed there were only a handful of cards on Ginny’s desk.
She remembered the card in her hand. It was a wedding anniversary card that had obviously been given to someone else in the past. On the front, the girl had carefully tried to color out “Happy Anniversary” and written “Merry Christmas.” That wasn’t the first ‘regifted’ card the teacher had received but the message inside certainly was.
Inside, the anniversary text had been just as neatly colored out. In it’s place the girl had written, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Eirhardt. I hope you have a wonderful and joyous holiday. I wish you were my mother.”
Drawn inside the card was a small box with text inside it that read, “Smell here.” Virginia had put a dab of perfume in the box below the writing.
Later as the class had been excused and were leaving the room, the little girl came up and was scanning some of the gifts left for her teacher by other students.
“Is my card as nice as your other gifts?”
Tears slid down Amanda’s face as she hugged Ginny Simmons. “Oh, honey, the best gifts are the ones that come from your heart. It doesn’t matter how much they cost.”
Her voice muffled as she fiercely hugged Amanda, Ginny spoke halting, tumbling words through her own tears: “That was my mom’s favorite perfume!” With that she ran from the room, her threadbare coat trailing behind her.
Amanda stood reflecting on what had just happened. She later told a friend of the encounter earlier that afternoon. “In 34 years of teaching, that card is one of the best presents from a student I’ve ever received.”
Friend, slick marketing and spoiled, greed-stricken kids can make you feel like a heel if you aren’t ponying up major credit or debit debt to feed their insatiable maw. It can feel like you’re a horrible parent/friend/coworker if you aren’t playing the one-up game, trying to anticipate what everyone else is doing and trying to outspend them.
Why? What’s the real investment there in terms of thought, of consideration for who that person is to you?
Embarrassing, but there it is: there is no real investment in terms of anything meaningful.
The little girl had put her soul into a card that probably had been sent to her parents. She’d taken the time to neatly change the message, and she’d hand-delivered the card.
And she dared to love.
Cost? You bet. Swallowing fear of rejection and nerves. Fighting embarrassment that someone might hear what she said or, worse, snoop and read the card. Knowing she wasn’t dressed nicely and not feeling pretty. A thousand and one reasons to cave, toss the card and run. Come on, don’t be stupid. She’s got all that neat stuff. What’s she want with YOUR sorry second-hand card. . . . ?
Be honest. You could add to that list because some time or other you’ve been there.
So have I.
You might even sort of be there now.
Here’s the message. Most of us have already survived the mad stampede of Christmas shopping and are getting things all wrapped up. Now you have a little time, think about how you want to give the gifts you’ve chosen. Consider doing as Ginny Simmons did–get up and take that gift to the one you want to receive it. Tell them why you chose it. It’ll all be over quick enough. Give it some time.
Give them some Time.
Yes, hug therapy is almost always in order.
Just as we don’t know why the little girl had lost her mom, you and I never know when we’re giving to someone for the last time in this life.
Take the time to give a little of yourself as you offer your presents on Christmas.
It may leave you and them just as speechless as it did Mrs. Amanda Eirhardt that day just before Christmas holiday break.
I’m thankful to a long-term friend for sending this story. It’s the stuff Christmas giving was meant to be. And it’s just another reminder that truth is always, always more meaningful than fiction. Of course, when one is able to blend the two, sometimes magic happens.
Merry Christmas, 2nd Cupper.
© D. Dean Boone, December 2013