By Wm. Axley Allen © 1983-2012
Issue: December, 1983
It was mid afternoon in the fourth grade class when the teacher asked if anyone objected to drawing names to exchange class Christmas presents. Slowly a ten year old hand was raised. The teacher asked, “Billy, do you not want to draw names?” “No ma’am, I can’t.” came my reply. “Why,” she asked. “We don’t have any money,” I answered.
Although the limit to be spent was only $1.00, it was more than we had. Dad and Mom had both been in and out of hospitals that year and neither of them was in condition to hold down a job. My brother had dropped out of school at 16 to support the family, but it being winter, he hadn’t been able to get in many hours at his present job as an apprentice carpenter.
Times were looking pretty bleak at our house that Christmas. My teacher said that I could be excused from drawing names.
Several days later, we were treated to a Christmas party and the gifts were exchanged. As the gifts were being passed out and ripped open, I felt oddly out of place. In a room filled with laughter, I wished to be invisible so that I could hide. I was completely absorbed in my thoughts and didn’t hear my name being called at first, but when I did, I told the teacher, “I didn’t draw names.” She smiled and said, “Well this one’s got your name on it so come on up and get it.”
The colorfully wrapped present had a card attached and written on it was: To Billy - From: Mrs. Hayes. Inside was a round box of “pick up sticks” that transformed my entire day. Suddenly I was no longer left out of the festivities. I was a part of Christmas or at least that part of Christmas that’s seen through ten year old eyes.
My teacher gave far more to me than a toy that day. She gave a child a toy but she gave a man an understanding of Christmas love that has lasted for over a quarter of a century. She also gave a man hope and dreams and an undying faith in the goodness of people.
There are teachers everywhere who have scraped their pennies together at Christmas in order to brighten the day of a child whose family was having financial trouble. There are organizations or church groups in most all communities that collect old toys and repair them or raise money or gifts for the less fortunate children in their areas.
These people are the spirit of Christmas. They see beyond the commercial aspects of this special holiday season. They are the fortunate ones who see a special time to love.
This Christmas, why not search out that organization in your community. If there’s not one, start one or look to a neighboring community and make a small contribution to their efforts. It could be an old toy which they could repair or a new one or a dollar or two; even an hour of your time.
It doesn’t have to be much. The box of “pick up sticks” probably cost only a fraction of a dollar but their effect has never diminished. This Christmas can be special not only to you and I, but to a child of today and possibly an adult of tomorrow.
This holiday season, as the warmth of laughter rings in the December air, let us all look to the child who feels left out. Let’s open our hearts and give a kid hope. Who knows, we might be giving an adult the ability to dare to dream.