Christmas Story

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Once upon a Christmas years ago. . .

One year, after my sons had gone to live and work on their own and Christmas was approaching, I was looking around trying to think of what to buy my husband for Christmas. After I while I realized I was really trying hard to dream up a gift for him. I knew he'd be having an even harder time thinking of what to give me.

This got me to thinking about the whole meaning of giving and of Christmas. I'll try not to make this terribly long, but this is the idea that came to me and what we actually did for Christmas that year -

My husband was a Game Warden. He often confiscated game killed illegally. What happens to it? We tried giving it to facilities like orphanages, but too many government and health regulations kept that from happening. So he always had a list of people he found who were down on their luck and needed food for their families. Most were country boys who could come retrieve the game and dress it and prepare it for eating. This included venison, wild duck, goose, quail, doves, and sometimes fish.

Many of these people in our rural area supported their families off the land, too. They hunted and trapped and sold hides. So Jim would also stop when he saw a hide-bearing animal on the roadside - hit by a car - retrieve it and give it to someone so they could sell the hide. This little extra money made a big difference to some families.

Christmas was close and Jim found a huge raccoon that had been killed so he took it to the house of a construction worker who had hurt his back and was out of work. He knew the man would get a nice sum of money for it, enough to buy a few groceries for his wife and 5 kids. The next week Jim stopped by the man's house and the kids came running out to greet him. One of the boys said, "Mr. Jim. Thanks so much for the raccoon. We haven't had meat in a long time."

When Jim told me this, we were both horrified. These people were eating a road kill, intended for the hide sale only. But they hadn't wasted any of it! I've eaten roasted raccoon and it's ok, but not what I look forward to having for dinner, and certainly not when it's picked up off the roadside.

So here is the plan I put forward to my husband: This year we will not exchange gifts. We will use the money we would have spent on each other and we'll buy groceries for this man's family. The important parts of this are:

1. We are not just giving food to a poor family at Christmas. We are doing this instead of giving to each other. You and I will NOT exchange gifts.

2. We will not tell anyone about this. A part of the Bible that has always made a huge impression on me is Matthew, Chapter 6, Vs 1-7. To put it in the vernacular - Do your good works in secret, don't blow your own horn.

There was a friend at our house when we were discussing this. He did not like the idea because this man was often arrested for one thing or another - misdemeanor crimes. Jim knew lots of people like this, arrested some of them himself, and helped them feed their families anyway. They knew if he caught them breaking the law, he'd take them to jail and then take some food to their families. We talked about it for a while and before he left, our friend added his own money to the contribution.

SO, on December 23rd, I left work early and went to the grocery store. I mentally prepared meals for that family of parents and 5 children - 7 days worth, and bought everything that would be needed to prepare them all. That included a turkey dinner for Christmas day and dessert and candy for the kids. I had more than one grocery cart filled. Christmas Eve morning Jim delivered the entire load, including cash we had collected from our friend. I didn't go.

He came home crying. The gratitude of the entire family just overwhelmed him. It overwhelmed me, too. The father came to our house later to thank me himself and tell me how hard times had been and what this meant to his family. I can't tell you the deep joy that filled me that Christmas. It was THE most wonderful Christmas I ever had. It became a tradition I repeated , but that first time was the most awesome.

So why am I telling you about this now? I want you, most of all, to hear the SEQUEL. The very next year, this man and his family were in better shape. He came to our house again, to let us know that he and his family were doing the same thing for someone they knew that was in bad shape! He was so thankful to us, not only for the gift of food and money, but for the gift of the GIFT. Of seeing the GIFT in action. I went on to hear, in subsequent years, how the GIFT was being passed on, throughout a community of working poor, and yes, people who were often in our jail for one thing or another. Still, people with families to feed and needs to be met.

Even though we didn't tell anyone what we did, the word spread around, mostly through a community of people that most good citizens ignored or wouldn't associate with. I still hear about it now and then, over 30 yrs later. I certainly still reap benefits un-imagined from it. The memory of that first time still gives me chills.

That's my Christmas Story.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I agree with Martha. That was definitely a "Pay it Forward." It's so rewarding to do for others. You are a guardian angel.
    Kay emoticon emoticon
    2895 days ago
    That was an awesome story, what a great love of Man and God you & your Husband have. God Bless you Both! emoticon
    2897 days ago
    A great story, Karen! And the best part is that it's about people that you know personally -- and it shows that the spirit of Christmas and giving can be passed along from person to person! A true story of giving and feeling good about it.

    Hugs, Eve
    2905 days ago
    Wonderful story! Pay it forward!
    2907 days ago
    Great story of giving. Thanks for sharing. Lynda
    2907 days ago
  • JUSTJO66
    A wonderful story and tradition. It blessed my heart to read this. Thank you for sharing with us.
    2907 days ago
    You started a "pay it forward" long before it was even a saying.

    We all knew you were a special person. emoticon
    2908 days ago
  • --KREN
    Jim left this world years ago, still living in my heart though. Thank you for all the kind words. Karen
    2908 days ago
    This is a wonderful story of how people give love and help. Your reward has already come. This is the best blog I have read in a long time. It joys my heart to know there are people like you and Jim in this world. May God Bless you this Christmas.
    emoticon Irene
    2908 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Everyday is an opportunity to give.
    2908 days ago
  • MOGAL1946
    This is probably the best post I have read in my time with Sparkpeople. To me, this is the true meaning of Christmas, as well as everyday life, in sharing with one another. You & your husband started an amazing tradition in your own way that will continue for years to come.
    Thank you & Merry Christmas.

    2908 days ago
    What a wonderful story. I have never done anything quite that big, but I do try and pay it forward in smaller ways.

    Thank you so much for starting my Tuesday with this story.

    PJ emoticon
    2908 days ago
    That's a wonderful Christmas story and likely the best one I'll read this season. Thank you for posting it!

    2908 days ago
    What a lovely story! The idea of "pass it forward" is not new and you and your husband started quite a chain. Bless you!

    2908 days ago
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