Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Lucky me to come from a big family, a brother and three sisters. We are spread out over the span of about fifteen years so we have frequently been at very different places in our lives. But back in the early seventies we all had a common problem—we were young and broke and Christmas was coming.
My brother Tommy and his wife Charan were newlyweds as were Tom and I. My sister Peggy was a college student and my youngest sisters, Melinda and Melissa, were in junior high school. We got together to talk about how we could celebrate the holidays and give gifts on our strict budgets. Our solution was to draw names and limit the amount we spent on the one person we were buying for to $10.00. That is the equivalent of about $60.00 in today’s money.
It turned out to be lots of fun. We didn’t tell who we were buying for and the challenge of finding that one perfect gift got to be a game. There was lots of whispering and dropping hints, trying to guess who had whose name and giving opinions on what that person might like to receive.
Our family tradition is to open Christmas tree presents on Christmas Eve, and the big day finally came. We gathered at Mom’s and Dad’s house. Everyone brought something to share for dinner, all of it indulgent and so good. When we were more than full, actually about to pop, it was time for presents. Dad gathered us around the tree and started handing out packages. Paper and ribbons flew, gifts held up for everyone to admire, lots of hugs and kisses.
When it came time for my gift, Dad handed me a really big box—REALLY big! It was from Peggy and I could not imagine what was in it. How could she have filled up that box and spent only $10.00? Did she cheat and blow the budget? I looked at her and she just smiled and said. “Open it.” So I did.
Inside that box was a coat, one just like Peggy’s that I had admired since the day she got it. It was beautiful soft tan suede with fox fur at the neckline and around the bottom, just a little bit fitted so that it was very flattering. I’m sure all the questions I had were written on my face as I jumped up to put it on. I could tell it wasn’t brand new but it was still beautiful. Did she find it at the Goodwill? Maybe it was a return at the department store where she worked part-time while she went to school.
“Nothing seemed right,” she said, “until I got the idea to give you the gift of my coat for a year. I know you’ve always liked it and it does look pretty on you. Are you okay with this?”
Well, of course I was. My sister was willing to go for a year without her pretty coat so I would have a gift. She went on special dates wearing, probably, a jeans jacket. Maybe some days she was cold, layering on the sweaters. What a wonderful gift, given with a loving heart.
The next Christmas I returned the coat and let her know how much I had enjoyed it. We agreed that if she ever got tired of it she would let me have it, and a few years later she did. I still have that coat and wear it. Every time I do it is like I am being hugged and I am reminded that the most special gifts are those given unselfishly with love. And isn’t that what God did when he sent his son to us on the very first Christmas just because He loves us?
About the Contributor
The family still gathers for a Christmas party every year. This year there will be over thirty family members representing four generations, ranging in age from three to ninety-seven years old. It’s a blast!