About two months ago, I started going through a bunch of my old things in preparation to move to a new house. I opened a box of old newspaper articles or random stories I had liked at one time in my life and saved. I started to read through a few as I cleaned out the box. This is a story I found among the stories I had kept. It was on a blank piece of paper and does not have the author’s name or where the story came from originally. So, I do not know who to give credit to for this story, but I thought as the holidays approach, this is a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and giving gifts that last for a lifetime in our memories.
I remember when I was 12 or 13 my teacher challenged us to all find something to do for a family member that would really mean something to them. He challenged us to find something that would give someone we love a Christmas they would never forget–something that could not be bought or found at a department store. “Buying a gift is easy,” he said, “but giving a gift that makes a memory for lifetime really takes effort on your part.” He then told us we would have to write a report on what we did and turn it in after Christmas break. Well, I didn’t really know what he meant, but since it was going to be part of my grade, I knew I had to figure it out. On the day of our family Christmas party, I was in the kitchen helping my mom make some of the food for our extended family feast. I was thinking about the assignment and decided to ask my mom about it, “Mom, what would you want for Christmas that doesn’t cost money?” She laughed and said, “The same thing I want every year…for my children to behave!” She then continued laughing and shaking her head. I realized she must not have understood what I meant, so I tried again, “No mom, seriously, if you could have anything in the world right now, today, and it didn’t cost you anything, what would you want?” She thought about it for a second and then, looking around the kitchen, said, “I would want someone to magically clean up this mess after we are done cooking. I love cooking, because I love seeing everyone together enjoying the food and having a good time. But to me, there is nothing worse than watching everyone leave after having a good time, and then having to come into the kitchen by myself and clean up the mess.” Then she asked me why I was asking. I don’t remember what I answered, but I remember thinking, Really? That’s it?! If all I have to do is a few dishes to get an ‘A’ on an assignment, I’m in!
So a few hours later, when all the family was gathered and most of the kids had already eaten and were excusing themselves from the table to go play and leave the adults to their talking, I excused myself too, like I was going to play, but went to the kitchen instead. I looked around at all of the stuff strewn over the countertops from everything we had made and thought, ‘Wow. She’s right. This really is a mess!” Then I rolled up my sleeves, filled up the water in the sinks, and started doing the dishes, one bowl at a time. It took me a lot longer than I had expected, but I felt accomplished and proud when I had finally finished washing all the dishes and only had the countertops left to wipe down. I could hear my mom and dad saying their goodbyes to family members and knew that everyone would be gone soon. I tried to hurry so that I would be out of the kitchen before I got caught. However, when I pushed the kitchen door open to leave, I came face to face with my mother. She gasped and exclaimed, “David! You scared me! What are you doing in here?” I grinned sheepishly, and mumbled, “You weren’t supposed to catch me,” before moving to the side so she could walk into the kitchen. I will never forget that moment. The moment when realization dawned on my mother’s face as she took in the scene of the kitchen with no dishes and clean countertops. She kept looking at me, then at the kitchen, and then back at me. Then suddenly, she pulled me into a hug and burst into tears. She just held me, crying uncontrollably, until I finally pulled back and said, “I’m sorry mom. Don’t cry. I thought this would make you happy.” To which she laughed through her tears and replied, “David, I am crying BECAUSE I am happy. This is the best Christmas present you could ever have given me. Thank you so much. I will never forget this. And I mean that with all of my heart.” She then pulled me back into a hug and just held me. This time I let her. I felt like I was on top of the world. I couldn’t remember a time that my mom and I had ever had a moment like this. It was the most tender moment I can ever remember having with my mom. I knew that I would never forget that moment either. The moment that I learned that what we give of ourselves is so much more important than any gift that can be purchased from the store. I’m so grateful for that lesson and keep it close to my heart, especially at Christmas time. May we all find ways to give a gift from the heart, instead of from the store. God bless.