A recent experience reminded me once again of the gift of small things – blessings from God that often get overlooked.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Growing up, we weren’t what anyone would call “rich.” We may not have reached “middle class” for most of my childhood. But where we lacked in wealth, we abounded in love.
I, however, abounded in snottiness and surely did not make it any easier for my mom to be a little strapped.
There is one year, in particular, that comes to mind. I asked my mom for boots. They were expensive boots. They were name-brand boots. They were colorful boots. So colorful, that they elicited this well-known caution from my mom: You’re going to wear them once, and then never again.
I knew we weren’t rich, but I asked for the boots, anyway. I told her that she could just get me this ONE thing, and then I’d be happy.
Christmas morning, I wake up and bound down the hallway into the living room of our tiny apartment. I rush to the tree and peruse the gift-wrapped boxes, hoping to find a box big enough to fit a pair of sassy, suede boots.
Nothin’. Only smaller boxes. Boxes that would maybe fit a pair of shoes, but I didn’t ask for shoes.
My response? “Fine, then I don’t want ANYTHING.” Then, I literally stormed back across the living room, through the hallway and into my room.
After awhile, I decided that something is better than nothing, even if that something wasn’t as awesome as the boots that I clearly asked for.
I sat down in a huff and grabbed the first box that had my name on it. They both had my name on them, actually, because everyone else had gone on to have a good Christmas and opened their presents without me, while I was pouting in my room.
Imagine my surprise – mixed with a little horror – when I opened the first box to find…one boot. The other box: The other boot.
She wrapped them in separate boxes so that I wouldn’t be able to guess the contents immediately upon seeing the package.
All that to say, I wasn’t a sweet, grateful child who was content with what she had. And for the record, I wore them twice before never wearing them again. Nothing goes with tall black, red, green and purple boots.
I like to think that I’ve changed over the years, but would I be “blessed” with children as surely as I was? No better time to find out than on Christmas morning, during a particularly rough financial season for my family.
We decided on the questionable strategy of “Quantity over quality”. Since we couldn’t afford to get them each even one quality gift, we dealt in volume.
Instead of wrapping up one mediocre gift for each kid, we wrapped up a bunch of small gifts. I decided that even the everyday things would become special if wrapped up individually. I don’t normally get the kids juice boxes, but I did that December and I wrapped each box separately. I purchased a multi-pack of gum, opened the package and wrapped each pack separately. Whenever it was possible, I followed this rule.
And because funds really were tight and because the kids needed socks…well, I did the unthinkable: I gave them socks as gifts. And yes, I wrapped up the socks separately, though they were wrapped in groups of three.
We also took each child to the dollar store and let them choose one gift for each sibling. This gave them the gift that every parent loves to get: The joy of watching someone you love open the gift that you chose.
My kids had always been easy-to-please, but I’d never tested this trait on a Christmas morning. Would they pretend to be happy, would they be genuinely pleased or would they stomp out of the room and sulk on their beds for thirty minutes?
It only took one tear of the paper to find out if this was going to be the Best Christmas or The Christmas To Which We Never Refer.
David, upon opening his package of plain white ankle socks, said in his trademark glee-filled voice, “Socks! I needed socks! Thank you!” The juice boxes brought on the cheers of the little guys and forget about the gum: Total hit.
Each child got to explain why they chose their gifts for their siblings. “I knew you liked to write, so I got you the notebook with the purple glitter pen. You like purple.” “Remember when you had the glow stick that stopped glowing? Here is a whole package of them!” “You said you needed some gloves, and I think these will fit you.”
There wasn’t any sounds of regret or words of discontent. The kids were happy and playing. If they were upset, you sure couldn’t tell as they had a celebratory glass of too-sweet eggnog along with their post-gift breakfast.
Instead of mumbles and grumbles, all I heard were giggles, the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, and the pitter patter of tiny sock-feet.
As a child, I had to learn how to be thankful for what I’d been given. As a Christian, I’ve had to learn how to be thankful, even in my lack. Now, as a mother, I have been given the honor of teaching my kids that we are to be thankful in all things; whether we are in need or have plenty.
God is faithful in all things and at all times, and for that, we can all be very thankful.