Once, long ago, my father found himself laid off from work for the Christmas Season. In those days and in our neck of the woods at least, working class families did most of their Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Online shopping wasn’t even a dream yet! Dad would get a Christmas bonus and get off early on Christmas Eve. As soon as he got home – he and mom were off to shop. The department stores in the County Seat (My upbringing was considerably more rural than most people are used to and unless we kids wanted rough cut lumber from the local family owned sawmill under the tree and bologna sandwiches from one of the few local mom & pop groceries in our stockings – the County seat was it.) stayed open late on Christmas Eve for just such shoppers. Well, on the Christmas Eve in question, the stores were open and Dad had plenty of time but there was not only no Christmas bonus, there was no regular paycheck either. In addition to our parent’s shopping, we kids were usually given a few dollars to put with whatever small amount we had been able to hold on to so we could buy something for each other. None of that was on the menu. Jumping ahead, we kids always received $7 cash @ on Christmas day - $5 from one set of grandparents and a $2 bill from the other. As usual, when it rains it pours and the well pump quit the day after Christmas. Dad needed our Christmas money to buy a new one and spent the immediate post-holiday season seven feet under ground and hip deep in cold water installing it. But – that was afterwards. Dad was always pretty good with his hands and spent some of his presently copious spare time out in the unheated garage with the table saw, drills, and C-clamps manufacturing gifts. Mom spent as much time at the sewing machine, rapidly depleting her hoard of cloth and for just once in my experience, nearly emptying the button can (an old candy tin in which she kept buttons rescued from clothing we wore out). We kids caught the spirit and went to work. I painted my older sister’s room. My middle sister crocheted little tie thingies for us boys to put on the top buttons of our dress shirts. And so it went. All said and done, dad went back to work and there followed lots of Christmases where the gifts represented more money. I remember here and there over those years receiving a Secret Sam (look it up), a Johnny Eagle set (look it up), a Timex watch and a chromatic harmonica. But none of those gifts I remember and certainly none of the ones I have long since forgotten, had the same impact as the year we gave the work of our hands. Sure, I suppose we had to due to unfortunate circumstances. I can only say in retrospect that I am glad those circumstances arose. For myself, even my $7 (more money then than now) that went into the new pump, felt like just one more contribution. I felt closer to my family that year and closer to God as well. I pass this on for what it’s worth. Merry Christmas.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church