In an hour and a half from the time I start to write this, Christmas will be over.
It's not cold right now, and the winds are calm. I'm warm. I'm happy.
Christmas went good this year. There were few presents, and most of them were small trinkets, mere symbols of the appreciation we have for each other.
But I did receive some gifts that can't come from a store:
I already mentioned the drama presentation where my kids were the stars.
Last night, a friend called and asked if he could come over. This particular friend I have known since 1st grade. He turned out to be gay, and was
ostracized from the local society because of that fact. This past year, we met and talked and renewed our friendship. He had thought I hated him. He
learned differently. I don't like his lifestyle in that respect, but I value his friendship just as much nevertheless. He came over toting a large
plastic bag covered with bows. Inside that bag were four fluffy pillows, one for each member of my family. He brought his new laptop and my kids spent
most of the night showing him how to use it while he and I joked around and talked about the past year and what we plan for the coming one. He left,
seemingly happier than I have seen him since those tender years in school. That meant so much more to me than a pillow.
At my mother's house, we have a tradition: someone is always chosen to 'play Santa', meaning they hand out the presents one at a time. I was chosen
unanimously this year. Everyone went to lengths to make sure I felt comfortable. I don't know if they knew how I was feeling, but I know I had not
mentioned it to anyone outside of my wife and kids.
I have a niece who is about 3 years old now, a beautiful little girl. She has always been afraid of me. Perhaps it is the way I look, or maybe it's
my mannerisms (which I have been told are intimidating), but regardless it had become a running joke. It cut a little, as I love kids, but I always
just sloughed it off. While I was handing out presents, she asked for one. I replied "I'll trade you a present for a hug", expecting everyone to
get a laugh when she ran to Daddy at the thought. Instead, she jumped off the couch and literally ran to me to give me the first hug I have ever
gotten from her.
My son had picked out two things he wanted for Christmas, a distortion pedal for his electric guitar, and a steel lap guitar. I had just enough cash
to get him those. I was sure he knew there would be presents, just not as many as usual. But when he got that guitar and pedal, the look on his
face... well, let's just say it was the perfect topper for a perfect Christmas. He had expected nothing
, and apparently would not have been
too disappointed with that nothing.
Apparently the church we had been attending found out we were having trouble. Both children received gift cards to a local clothing store, in an
appreciable amount. Tomorrow, we go and let them have fun shopping. The church also saddled us with several bags
of food, including a personal
favorite of mine, home-grown pecans.
My first project completed, I had been studying on a possible next one. Of course, with money so tight, it would have to be something I could
construct very cheaply. Thge search seemed pretty hopeless; after all, the last project cost a few hundred dollars before it was completed. And yet I
found one that should cost only a few dollars (discounting the material I have in stock in my shop) and has great potential. Tonight, I began cutting
materials for its construction.
I, personally, got a new pair of jeans and a new shirt, some socks, a pillow (obviously), and a laser leveling/measuring tool set. More than some get
at this time, but less than what others got, even in my family. Those gifts are irrelevant, however. In themselves, they mean nothing. The real gifts
were the things that cannot come from a store. They were smiles and warm greetings, friendly people who cared enough to let us know we meant something
to them, the kind words of those who live far far from us and whom we may never meet face-to-face, and the hope that comes from knowing the One whose
birthday we celebrate this time of year.
So many people posted on this thread, so many people sent U2Us, so many people added warm comments to my profile... in one way, it's no more than a
pattern of 0s and 1s arranged in a particular order, controlling images on an LCD screen. But it really is more. It's taking the time to say "Merry
Christmas". It is taking the time to say a quick prayer. It's turning your thoughts to another person, another human, long enough to wish them
Posters have mentioned earlier in this thread that there is something wrong with confining well-wishes and good thoughts to one day out of an entire
year. You are all correct. So tonight I make my first New Year's resolution: to continue to hold others in my thoughts every single day of the coming
year, and to never forget that we are all in this chaotic jumble we call life together. I call on everyone else to do the same.
Your prayers for me worked wonderfully. May my prayers for all of you be just as effective.