My parents didn't have money when I was a young girl.
I don't think I knew that as a child - but if I had been more observant the signs were there.
We had to ask to have a drink of milk, and were sometimes told no.
We had to ask if there was enough hot water to take a shower.
Our clothes were hand-me downs from cousins.
And sometimes our dinners consisted of pieces of bread in a bowl of milk.
I remember looking forward to Christmas each year with so much excitement.
I was a horrible snoop and would search the entire house looking for gifts that were hidden away.
There was only one year I couldn't find them.
We would all squeal with excitement on Christmas morning as we opened our treasures.
My favorite Christmas was the year I got a tape by The Bangels, with the song Manic Monday on it. I listened to that tape over and over again.
Christmas Day was always magical until we went to our family Christmas party.
My cousins, who grew up with money, would show us their new toys and clothes and then ask the question, "So what did you get for Christmas?"
And somehow, that tape by The Bangels didn't hold as much magic as it had earlier in the day.
One year I was snooping in the garage looking for what Christmas morning would bring.
High up on a shelf I saw several large black garbage bags that I hadn't noticed before.
I climbed up on Dad's work bench and stood on my tippy toes to look inside the bags.
What I saw took my breath away.
There were Cabbage Patch dolls, and toys, and beautiful Christmas dresses.
I knew it was going to be the best Christmas ever.
Later I learned that our dear neighbor Pearl Powell had been the one to give us Christmas that year.
Eventually Dad finished school, started his career and was blessed financially.
He and Mom have never taken those blessings for granted.
My parents do everything that they can to bless the lives of others, just as Pearl did for us.
I remember a time when Dad heard of a man who called the church, wanting to sleep on the lawn so that he could come to church the next morning.
Dad drove to the church, talked with the man, and invited him home...where he stayed with us for four days before he continued on his journey. We had some of his things in our garage for months.
Another time Dad saw a car slide off the road during a heavy snowstorm. He made his way to where the car was stuck, and brought the cold and scared passengers of that car home where he made them something warm to drink, and gave them blankets to cuddle in until a tow truck could get their car.
At times my parents acts of kindness have been small. At other times those acts of kindness have been life- changing for people.
Just the other day a man showed up at work and asked my mom if he could do some work around the nursery to earn enough money to fill his propane tank (so that he could continue to heat the truck where he was living) and to buy his grandson a toy truck for Christmas. Mom sent him to Dad, and Dad put him to work sweeping and cleaning up around some construction that Dad and my brothers are doing. Later I asked Dad, "Did you give him the $15 he asked for?" Dad answered, "I gave him enough to get through the weekend, and I told him to come back on Monday."
I talked to my mom ten minutes ago. She was on her way to pick up a young girl who just moved in up the street. She is taking her shopping to buy Christmas gifts for the girl's family, who will have nothing otherwise.
My dad and mom taught me an important lesson...a lesson that I try to remember all year long and not just at Christmas time. The lesson is simply this: rather than ask 'what did I get?' ask 'what did I give?'
Thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you for teaching me the things that really matter in life.
And to all of you, may your Christmas be filled with God's love...because it is there, in abundance