While conducting Christmas programs at the Salvation Army’s Women’s Shelter, l was moved with compassion for the women and children living there. I met Margaret, a grandmother raising her two grandchildren. Margaret seemed much like me, except much older and recovering from a back injury, which left her unable to keep a permanent job. Margaret’s daughter was no longer involved in her children’s lives.
Sara, Margaret’s granddaughter, was eleven years old. She was like most girls her age. She was excited about Christmas but wondering if Santa was going to come to her home, which was now at the shelter. Billy, her grandson, was six years old. He was full of energy but seemed to be unconcerned or even aware of his surroundings. Sara was suffering the most from the loss of her mother, and though she was beloved by her grandmother, her world was much harder than carefree Billy’s.
As I walked into the very small room that this small family called home, I could hardly hold back the tears. The room had two twin beds, which they shared, and they had to share a bathroom with another family. I listened as Margaret told me her sad story, shared her pain over her lost daughter, and finally showed me the one pair of shoes that Sara and Billy each had. She had no money to provide a Christmas for them. At an age when she should be cared for by her own daughter, Margaret’s eyes became moist with tears as she thought about Christmas and how little she could do for her own grandchildren.
As a single working mother and grandmother, I knew firsthand of Margaret’s most difficult and nearly impossible task. My heart was moved with compassion, and God began to speak to my heart about this dear family. It was through my own mother’s words that I heard the message that moved my compassion into action. My dear mother used to always say, ”There but by the grace of God go I.” And for me, just one step removed from this sadness, I knew it was true.
I have limited in money myself, but I knew I had to do something. I sneaked a look at the shoe sizes Sara and Billy wore. I was on the move. First to the Family Dollar Store to buy toys and gifts. I loaded up! Then to the Payless Shoe Store, for not two, but three pairs of shoes; one pair each for Sara and Billy, and Margaret. Of course, there was the last purchase: wrapping paper and bows.
I hurried home and wrapped the gifts! I was so excited! I called the shelter and invited Margaret, Sara, and Billy to have Christmas lunch and to spend Christmas day in my home. Margaret cried tears of joy. I did not tell her about the gifts.
On Christmas morning, I drove to the women’s shelter and picked them up. Anticipation mounted as I drew near to my home. Margaret, Sara, and Billy enjoyed a Christmas feast of smoked turkey and ham, chicken and dumplings, pecan pies, sweet potato casserole, and lots of goodies! Little Sara began to relax into the feeling of belonging that she had not had for so
long. Billy just ate!
After lunch, we all gathered around the Christmas tree. I began to place each of their gifts at their feet. Margaret began to cry. Sara and Billy anxiously tore into their gifts! Sara and Billy had a new pair of tennis shoes and some toys. Margaret also had a pair of new shoes and a love gift of fifty dollars. There are no words to describe this scene. This was my gift. But whether it was a greater gift to them or to me, I can’t say. I do know that
this was the best Christmas I have ever had.
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