My birthday is one week before Christmas so often my birthday and Christmas presents are combined. My very first birthday memory is of a gift that has lasted a lifetime.
It was my seventh birthday and I was excited! Mom had planned a birthday party for me and had invited a family for my celebration. This family was in need and no doubt was going to have a sparse Christmas, if they were even to have a Christmas at all. I was told they wouldn’t be bringing gifts but that I would be giving them presents!
Mom took me to the only store in town, The Hudson Bay. We hung out in the toy section picking out the right gift for each child. I don’t remember how many gifts we purchased but I do remember, high on a shelf, a big yellow duck on wheels meant for a toddler to ride. I LOVED that duck and Mom didn’t deny me. We went home with the duck and gave it to the youngest member of that family. I loved that birthday, it will always be thought of as my most favorite birthday.
Then I had daughters. I pondered the same sentiments my mother had shared. How was I to teach them the gift of giving?
A catalog came in the mail, not a typical mail order catalog but one for purchasing gifts for those in need. For example with a few dollars you might purchase chickens for a family in a third world country, or a blanket for a homeless person in a city. I put the catalog under the tree and came up with a plan.
Taking a small box with a clear plastic lid, I pasted a picture of needy children on the bottom half, turned it on its side and cut a hole in the top making it into a “piggy bank” of such. Every year, while the tree was up, the girls could ask for extra household chores and we would pay them money to put into our “Christmas bank”. It was heart warming to see their eagerness to fill the box. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and friends would add to it and by Christmas morning the box was heavy and would have caused the branch to bend low to the floor.
Christmas Day we would count the money divide it amongst all the children present, and let them shop from the little catalog. One year our oldest daughter took all her allotted money and purchased help for compromised teenage girls. My heart was touched to see the concern in her eyes, her heart had connected, she understood.
I hope to pass on my birthday gift to yet another generation of pattering feet and return our tattered Christmas bank back to its rightful place, at child height on a low branch of the tree.
“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the LORD.” Psalm 102:18 NLT