Thank You for All of the Christmas Story Submissions!
Below are the 5-selected winners!
Detail 1: Growing up in a small town in Noth Alabama you learn quickly that everybody knows everybody…. And takes care of them.
Detail 2: I was the third of four girls, raised in a home where music was as much a part of life as breathing.
Detail 3: About 30 years ago my sisters and I decided that it would be “nice of us” to go caroling on Christmas eve to homebound members of the church, retired school teachers, to the local nursing home, elderly or homebound friends of the family… some of them not far from their eternal home. We thought it would be one thing that we could do for them… maybe one last time.
Over the years we have sung for some people only one time, sometimes with eyes so full of tears and throats so full of emotion that they could bearly hear or understand us … but it brought a smile to their face and a joy to our heart. Some folks are still around and are waiting every year for us to show up on Christmas eve… but not many.
We have gone from one van full to a cara-van full….. due to in-laws, children and grandchildren. We have sung in rain, sleet, snow, and some years in T shirts…. But every year we go. We share stories of past Christmas Eves… and laugh… and cry.
Even though there are only a few left from our original route…. Each year more are added … and sadly taken away.
We no longer go just because we want to “bless their hearts”… but now we go because WE need the blessing , of that smile, that tear, that box of chocolates J …. To be reminded of those who traveled that night long ago to sing a song or say a word or bring a gift to one small child who came to “bless their hearts”.
There's a common thread in many heartwarming stories, and that's the thread of seeing the beauty of Christmas even when things are difficult. My story is not much different, then, but here it is. My family and I faced a Christmas where our monetary situation was, to say the least, desperate. Due to a job change, we had left a house for sale, and it would not, and any spare finances went into paying the mortgage to avoid foreclosure. So, we made gifts. Well, my wife made gifts, and my kids made gifts. I'm not very “make-y” so, I was having trouble participating. I was getting more than a little grumpy because of it, and missing the point.
Then I found something. It's a receipt from something my parents purchased 30 years ago, right before Christmas. The receipt has item numbers and prices, even the store name, but I don't know what it was for. Neither does Mom, and she signed the receipt, so if anyone knew, it would be her. I don't remember the stuff from those years, and I was about the age of my middle child then. What do I remember? Not cold weather, we were in the Philippines with the Air Force. Not big family gatherings, because, well, we were in the Philippines. I remember Mom, Dad, my sister, and me, celebrating the Nativity. Celebrating the love of God, the love of each other, and the joy of being together. It reminds me that even in the hard times, the unpleasant times, the stuff I miss is just that: stuff. The receipts may outlast the items, but nothing can ever, ever outlast the love. That's what I was reminded of, looking at the wrinkled pink carbon copy. The joy of love and each other remains.
It was the depression years and my outstanding memory of Christmas occurred at that time.
My father had done well in the grocery store business in the small unincorporated village where I grew up and the depression had not touched our family as much as it had others living in our village. My feeling is that we would have weathered the depression well except for one thing; my father simply could not turn down a customer who asked for credit so that his family would not go hungry.
In due time most of the village was being fed because of the kindness of my dad.
And in due time we found ourselves extended to the limit. Our personal sacrifices were huge and my folks extended themselves gladly knowing that families who would have otherwise gone hungry at least had some food.
I was about eight years old at the time and Christmas was the season I looked forward to the most. Even though we had very little cash for gifts, I remember my Mother taking me with her to the city where we did most of our shopping at the five and dime store which was so popular in that era. It was such a thrill to walk through the store, looking at all of the modestly priced offerings and listening to the resident pianist playing popular pieces while seated at the piano on an elevated platform and selling sheet music. Woolworth's had a lunch counter and I remember that my Mother always looked forward to ordering a piece of custard pie.
I doubt that my parents spent any money on gifts for each other, but we five children always had a few gifts waiting under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.
Even though times were hard for us when they didn't have to be, the prevailing feeling of my parents was one of gratitude that we could help keep a town alive.
Some people paid off their credit as they could and some probably never paid my father, but even ten years later others remembered and were stepping up and paying off their credit.
When my father died many years later at the age of eighty four the attendance at his funeral was overwhelming and had to be moved to larger quarters to accommodate the crowd who still remembered and wanted to pay their respects to he man who had treated the families of the village with love and compassion when the need was so great.
Christmas Eve 2002, I was sitting at home in North Carolina when the telephone rang, I found my younger brother on the other end with the words, “David, dad died about an hour ago.”
We talked for a while and then I just sat there in shock. My wife had heard my end of the conversation and did the most thoughtful thing she could have possibly done, she made me a cup of tea (Born and raised in England, hot tea is still my favorite “fix all” remedy.)
Many people believe the timing of dad’s death must surely ruin every Christmas, but the exact opposite is true. I honestly believe Christmas Eve was the best time for dad to leave us.
My parents always made sure Christmas was an extra special time for my sister, brother and I. We counted down the days, decorated the tree, went caroling and then hardly slept a wink Christmas Eve. As dad decorated the tree, he would be at the top of the step ladder and he’d balance there on one leg with his arms outstretched and shout, “Look kids, no hands,” and my mother would fuss at him to be careful.
Then as Christmas Day drew to a close dad would tease us and say, “Okay, Christmas is finished, let’s take the tree and everything down” and then he would laugh at our loud protests.
Yes, I miss dad each and every day, especially at Christmas but I make sure I enjoy every single minute of the festive season because that’s how dad would want it. And I’m certain that at the precise moment he slipped from this life into the next, as his sweet spirit left his earthly body his last words were,
“Look kids, no hands!”
Santa’s Secret Store at school was to be my 8 year old son’s first spending experience. I put on my best Dave Ramsey hat for a truly teachable moment… to welcome Beau to the world of giving, saving and THEN spending.
The conversation was to go like this:
Mommy: So you have $17.00, Beau? Here’s "money math" for our house. You give $2 back to God to say thank you. You pay yourself $2 for savings. Finally, you SPEND! You can spend $13, buddy.
Beau: [Insert Christmas music and sparkles here*] That sounds great, Mommy.
Reality was much more entertaining, of course. I followed script… and Beau was, well, exceptionally candid.
He spouted QUESTIONS and FEELINGS about HIS Christmas shopping money. You know… the questions that adults have, yet smother in the name of being appropriate and the feelings we tuck for the same reasons.
Beau: "I want to shop with ALL of my money."
"Why can't I spend all of my money in Santa's store?"
"Why does God want my money?"
"Why do I have to save?"
Needless to say, I had “10%’s” dancing in my head. Regardless, I reflected back to God’s grace and how He teaches me. He is quite the gentleman and never forces my hand at anything. He always gives me a choice. It’s in those choices and getting to learn from my mistakes that I grow. Time to apply this to my parenting.
I told Beau that He and God could decide what he gave and saved.
2 minutes later, they decided on a $1.00 offering…. folded like an airplane. Quite possibly the finest dollar God has ever received.
Beau was beyond proud of his heartfelt gift to God. I took notes from my student who became the teacher.
One word… BEAU-tiful.
Thank you all who participated, all the stories submitted are great!
Be on the watch for upcomming giveaways and contests!
The Andy Andrews Team