I think I was about 9 yrs old, so that would put “my most memorable childhood Christmas” in 1958. My family was best of friends with the Barretts, Foy, Jackie and their 11 yr old daughter, Carolyn. We all went to church together.
That year we were all together for Christmas Eve and having a great time. The phone rang and my dad took the call. When he got off of the phone he went straight over to Foy and visited with him about the call. Then they told us all that since they were both deacons at church, they were being asked to take out a few moments and go over and help a needy family. Carolyn, their 11 yr old daughter, and I both asked if we could go too. Usually that would have been an automatic NO, but not that evening. If our dads had told us, “No, you can’t go”, then we both would have missed out on our most memorable childhood Christmas.
As we made our way across town I remember thinking that we were in an area that I hadn’t been in very often. It was the section of town where most of the black people lived. Most of the houses there reflected the reality of what life was like for people with black skin living in the south. Most houses were old and in comparison to the north side of town the houses were run down. We stopped in front of a house that was particularly “shack-like”. Everything was dark; no porch lights anywhere on the block and certainly no street lights. We walked to the front door with our dads.
I don’t know what I expected to see; I probably didn’t expect anything because I probably was just in my own little world like usual. Foy knocked on the door and a lady answered it and we went inside. The living room was small and compared to our house on Hamilton it was almost empty too. Foy and my dad began to visit with the mom about her family’s needs. Carolyn and I just stood there looking at the 4 kids, all younger than me. All I can really remember is that the living room was dark and had little furniture. But that wasn’t what astounded me the most. I was completely dumbfounded that there was no Christmas tree and absolutely NO PRESENTS! I just kept looking at the 4 kids and wondered what they were going to do for Christmas.
When the adults finished talking we made our way back to the car and headed for the grocery store. I couldn’t get the image of NO PRESENTS out of my mind. When the dads went inside the store to buy the family some food, Carolyn and I began to talk about what we were thinking. Carolyn was older than me so she led our discussion. Both of us were stunned at a sight that was so different from the world in which we lived.
About that time Carolyn came up with a truly inspirational idea. “Mike, why don’t we give them some of our presents.” I thought that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. “And Carolyn, they have to have a Christmas tree. We could go by our house and get some of our extra ornaments.” We were both so excited, but UH-OH; how were we going to convince the parents to let us do that? We started plotting about how we would persuade our dads and then we would let them tell our moms.
After our dads put the groceries in the trunk of our 1954 Buick, they got in the front seat and were completely unprepared for the frontal assault that we instantly unloaded. Carolyn and I began to expound our ideas, presenting argument after argument why it was the right thing to do. We even quoted a few Bible verses that we had learned in Sunday School to win them over. Carolyn took the lead on the “presents” presentation and I quickly followed with persuasive words about the “tree and ornaments”. That’s when Carolyn said, “So what do you think of our idea?”
We were hoping for an immediate, “That’s a GREAT idea, kids!” But instead everything got really quiet. Carolyn and I looked at each other, our smiles fading into frowns. It wasn’t until I was grown that I actually understood the silence. Neither of our dads could speak. They were so proud of us that they couldn’t talk. About that time Foy exclaimed, “Kids, that is a wonderful idea.” We about jumped out of our skin; the car was full of nothing but JOY. But UH-OH. The dads still had to tell our moms.
Carolyn and I thought that would be a big deal, but it wasn’t. The moms were as excited as our dads. They told us what was inside each package so that we could pick out something for each of the 4 children. Then the name tags were replaced. My mom rounded up the spare ornaments, some tensile, a few lights and even a tree stand. I would give almost anything for a video of that night, but memories will just have to do. We must have looked like Santa and his elves as we headed out to the car. Of course, the Buick couldn’t pass for Santa’s sleigh.
We then drove to the Christmas tree lot run by the Boy Scouts and when the man heard what we wanted and why, he gave us the tree for free. It made his Christmas too.
As we drove to that “shack-like” house again, I felt like ten million dollars. Our dad’s got the tree and the decorations while Carolyn and I each escorted the presents to the front door. When we stepped inside, that Christmas became my most memorable childhood Christmas. The eyes of those 4 kids still remain one of the most priceless things I have ever personally witnessed. Squeals and giggles and laughter instantly accompanied those wide-open eyes.
Our dad’s got the tree settled into the stand and then brought in several sacks of groceries. After Carolyn and I sat the presents over near the tree, we all turned to leave. The mom was sobbing and saying “thank you” over and over and over again. The kids were squealing “thank you” and could hardly keep their hands off of the presents. Carolyn had a smile on her face bigger than I had ever seen before and I’m sure that my smile stretched from one freckled ear to the other.
The ride back to our house can only be described as GLORIOUS. As a child I was never more thankful to God for all of His blessings, nor more appreciative of my parents for all that they did for me.
So keep your eyes pealed for someone God might send your way who needs to be blessed by God through you. Be sure not to pass up even one of those opportunities to follow in the footsteps of the greatest GIVER of all. Why? Because if you do, you just might miss out on your most memorable Christmas of all. Merry Christmas and God bless. Mike
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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