Christmas? It is tenderness for the past,
courage for the present, hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow
with blessings rich and eternal, and that every
path may lead to peace.
is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
To cherish peace
and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of
most vivid memories of Christmases past are usually not
of gifts given or
received, but of the spirit of love,
the special warmth of Christmas
the cherished little habits of home.
Promise of the Doll
Ruth C. Ikerman
I met my friend on the crowded street, she held out her
hand to me and said, "I hope you can help me.
I'm desperate." Wearily she explained,
"I'm about to cry and it's all over a doll. I
simply have to find this doll for my granddaughter."
tears filled her eyes, I remembered the terrible shock we
all had felt over the death of her daughter who had been
such a vivacious young mother until stricken several
months before. The young husband was doing a fine
job with the little girl, but it was on the grandmother
that much of the burden of planning for good things
remained. And this explained her Christmas errand.
blame myself entirely," she told me, "for not
starting earlier, but I never thought it would be a
problem to find one of these special dolls. Yet
there is not one of this variety left in town."
asked her, "Well, why can't you settle for another
kind of doll?"
shook her head. "One of the last things my
daughter ever said to me before the pain got so bad was
how sorry she was that she had refused to buy this doll
for her little girl.
told me she had thought the child was too young for such a
doll, and had refused to buy it for her birthday,
supposing there were lots of occasions ahead when she
could get it for her."
she told the rest of the story. The little girl had
come to her mother's bedside and asked whether the doll
might arrive at Christmastime. The young mother
grasped the tiny hand in hers and said, "I promise
you this for Christmas." Then she had asked her
own mother to do this one thing, "Just make sure that
my little girl gets that doll this Christmas."
my friend was about to fail in her mission.
"It's all my fault," she kept repeating.
"I waited until too late. It will take a
I agreed, but I tried to keep up a polite facade of
courage. "Maybe the child has forgotten, and
will be happy with something else."
my friend replied, "She may forget, but I
won't." We parted to go our separate ways.
my mind only half on my shopping, I found the ribbon a
neighbor wanted to finish a baby blanket she was
making. A few minutes later I stopped at her door to
leave the package and was invited inside.
two little girls sat on the floor, playing with their
dolls. As I sat down, I noticed that one of the
dolls was the same type my friend was seeking.
Hopefully I asked, "Can you remember where you bought
friend gave me her warmhearted smile. "That's
not a doll," she said, "she's a member of the
family, and as near as I can see she probably was born and
not made. She came to us by plane from a favorite
aunt in the East."
I told her that I had a friend who was searching
frantically for such a doll for the little girl whose
mother had passed away during the year. Apparently
unaware of us, the two children played happily. The
mother and I spoke in adult words about facing loss at the
holiday time, and how much we wished I could help my
when I got up to leave, the two little girls followed me
to the door.
is ready to leave, too," they told me. Sure
enough, she was dressed in a red velveteen coat and hat
with a white fur muff.
is dolly going?" I asked.
laughed happily. "With you, of course.
You know where the lady lives, don't you--the one who
needs the doll so bad?"
started to tell them that of course I couldn't take this
doll. then I looked at their faces, happy in the
moment of giving. If I say the wrong thing now,
something within my heart warned, I may ruin their joy of
giving for the rest of their lives. Silently I took
the doll, fumbling with my car keys so they did not see
the mist over my eyes.
mother asked, "Are you both sure you want to do
this?" They answered, "Yes, we do. . .
." The mother put her arms around them
I rang the doorbell of my friend. "Don't ask me
how I got it, for I can't talk just yet. The doll is
a little smudgy, but the worn places are from kisses and
maybe they won't show under the Christmas lights."
fondled the doll as if it were made of precious
metal. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes when I
finally was able to tell the story.
can I ever thank those children enough?" she asked.
already have received a blessing greater than anything you
or I could give them," I told her. "I saw
their faces when they offered me the doll to bring to
it was true. In the moment of giving they had also
received, in ways past our finding out. A promise
could be kept, linking here with there, in the eternal
circle of love of which the great gift of Christmas itself
is a part.
Life Fully, the e-zine
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Gift to Give
Christmastime, teacher Elizabeth M. Allen of
North Carolina asked her class of fifth graders
to answer this question: "If you
could give any gift you wanted to, what would
you give and to whom?" Here are some
of the responses her students wrote:
gift I would most like to give would be
love. It lasts forever and never grows
dull. It can be given to anyone that you
like. ~~John Brandon
I could give one gift I would give it to my
parents. If I could get them to get along
together. And live together forever.
Year after year, month after month. If I
could give that gift, I would give anything in
this world if they would live together.
And make up their minds if they are going to
live together. ~~Fonda Hunter
would give a small orphan child friendship, fun,
and a home where he would be happy. I
would tell him never to be sad.
would give jobs and good homes to the poor and
stop poverty all over the world.
would like to give happiness to the people that
have not smiled. ~~Larry Shaw
I had one gift, I would give it to my
mother. I would give her a washer and
dryer. Because I love her, and she works
too hard. ~~Darlene Byrd
would give my crippled grandmother the power to
walk. She stays alone down in her home in
South Carolina. We left our dog down there
to keep her company. She seems real happy
when we come; but she gets sad when we
leave. She stayed two years in our house,
but she wanted to go back home because she
thinks she is too much trouble, but she's
not. ~~Sylvia Johnston
are many lessons that we can take from children,
and one of those is to try to see the true needs
of the people in our lives, and to try to
fulfill those needs in the best ways that we
can. . . .
The Gift of a
Mary Ann Matthews
Christmas comes at different times for me every
year. I never know precisely when it will arrive or
what will produce its spirit, but I can always be sure that
it will happen.
Last year Christmas happened while I was visiting my
parents in Conneaut, Ohio. The day was frightfully
cold, with swirls of snow in the air, and I was looking out
of the living room window of my folks' home which faces St.
Mary's Church. Workmen had just finished constructing
the annual nativity scene in the churchyard when school let
out for the day. Children gathered excitedly around
the crèche, but they didn't stay long; it was far too cold
All the children hurried away--except for a tiny girl of
about six. The wind lashed at her bare legs and caused
her coat to fly open in the front, but she was oblivious of
the weather. All her attention was riveted on the
statues before her. Which one I couldn't tell.
Was it Mary? The Baby? The animals? I
wondered. . . .
And then I saw her remove her blue woolen head
scarf. The wind quickly knotted her hair into a wild
tangle, but she didn't seem to notice that either. She
had only one thought. Lovingly, she wrapped her scarf
around the statue of the Baby Jesus. After she had
covered it, she patted the Baby and then kissed it on the
cheek. Satisfied, she skipped on down the street, her
hair frosted with tiny diamonds of ice.
Christmas had come once again.
|When my daughter was small she got the
dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas
play. After her first rehearsal she burst through the
door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny
gold tinsel designed to drape over her head like a sandwich
board. "What exactly will you be doing in the
play?" I asked her.
"I just stand there and shine," she told
me. I've never forgotten that response.
Sue Monk Kidd
All I Want
Christmas promises to be a nice one, a comfortable one, a hopeful
one. We have many reasons to be thankful, and we're not
struggling nearly as much as we have been in the past. We
still have a long way to go in several different areas, but for
the most part, things are going quite well.
I'm fortunate to be able to say that. We don't live in
Afghanistan or the Gaza strip or in a so-called third-world
country in which people struggle for food and clothing and
work. I work hard, but I'm fortunate to have a job.
I'm fortunate to have the means to take care of a family, and I'm
fortunate to have a home in which I can draw a nice hot bath after
a long day of work. I know this, and I feel a great deal of
gratitude when I think of all we have.
Christmas comes and we start to think about giving and receiving,
our focus isn't generally on what we have, but on what we could
have, what may be, what may happen. We tend to think about
what we'd be able to do with this or that, and how our lives would
change if we had this or that. It's nice to imagine these
things, but our imaginings are so often centered around material
things that we know can't help us in the long term that the days
and weeks after Christmas are often filled with a bit of
One of my
favorite Christmas songs was written by David Foster and Linda
Thompson Jenner; it's called "Grown-up Christmas List,"
and its chorus goes like this:
more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list."
here are timeless, and they're relevant to all of us, all the
time. If these few things would come to pass, life on this
planet would become a great joy for everyone, and we'd be able to
focus on developing the parts of ourselves that we tend to ignore
when we're struggling in other areas--we rarely grow in one area
when we're worried or preoccupied with another area. One of
the reasons that many people stay in debt, for example, is that
they get so worried about their money situation that they can't
work on improving other areas of their lives that may help them
deal with the debt.
said, I come to what I would love to have as a gift this
Christmas: the ability to learn from all the people I meet
and all the things that happen to me. I would love to be
able to make my life more fulfilling and to be able to teach
others about living full, happy lives, but I can't do so unless I
put behind me many of my own behaviors that prevent me from
learning lessons and applying them to my life. For example,
I often tend to discount what some people say simply because I
don't feel comfortable with them, or because they tend to behave
in ways that I'm not fond of -- perhaps they tend to insult others
or gossip or steal from work and brag about it. But their
behaviors aside, there's still something to learn from everyone,
and I often discount someone as a source of learning when I really
don't apply lessons as quickly as I could -- I learn things, but
it sometimes takes me forever to apply the knowledge to my
life. I've learned that encouraging others is a great way to
help them to grow and advance in life, but I still don't encourage
others nearly as often as I could. I've learned that taking
things personally usually is uncalled for and destructive, but I
still take things personally when I really shouldn't.
If I could
have this gift, I know that I would be much better at helping
other people to grow and to flourish as human beings, and I would
be better at contributing to their happiness. Imagine
that: I could help others to lead happy lives!
it: that's all I want for Christmas. I've checked the
malls and the department stores, and even the supermarkets and
convenience stores, but I haven't been able to find anything
similar. None of the online stores that I shop at
offer anything similar, and I haven't seen any commercials on TV
that offer what I want. So where can I get this gift?
Who's going to give it to me? Hmm. . . . maybe I'll just
have to find it inside of myself and give it to myself as a
stocking stuffer -- my guess is that this gift isn't going to take
up a lot of space.
If you know
where I can get this gift, let me know, okay? I really would
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Man Who Missed Christmas
J. Edgar Park
Christmas Eve, and as usual, George Mason was the last to
leave the office. He walked over to a massive safe, spun the
dials, and swung the heavy door open. Making sure the door
would not close behind him, he stepped inside.
A square of
white cardboard was taped just above the topmost row of
strongboxes. On the card a few words were written. George
Mason stared at those words, remembering…
year ago he had entered this self-same vault. And then,
behind his back, slowly, noiselessly, the ponderous door
swung shut. He was trapped–entombed in the sudden and
himself at the unyielding door, his hoarse cry sounding like
an explosion. Through his mind flashed all the stories he
had heard of men found suffocated in time vaults. No time
clock controlled this mechanism; the safe would remain
locked until it was opened from the outside. Tomorrow
realization hit him. No one would come tomorrow–tomorrow
he flung himself at the door, shouting wildly, until he sank
on his knees exhausted. Silence came, high-pitched, singing
silence that seemed deafening. More than thirty-six hours in
a steel box three feet wide, eight feet long, and seven feet
high. Would the oxygen last? Panting and breathing heavily,
he felt his way around the floor. Then, in the far
right-hand corner, just above the floor, he found a small,
circular opening. Quickly he thrust his finger into it and
felt a faint but unmistakable, cool current of air.
release was so sudden that he burst into tears. But at last
he sat up. Surely
he would not have to stay trapped for the full thirty-six
hours. Somebody would miss him. But who? He was
unmarried and lived alone. The maid who cleaned his
apartment was just a servant; he had always treated her as
such. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with his
brother’s family, but children got on his nerves and
had asked him to go to a home for elderly people on
Christmas Day and play the piano–George Mason was a good
musician. But he had made some excuse or other; he had
intended to sit at home, listening to some new recordings he
was giving himself.
Mason dug his nails into the palms of his hands until the
pain balanced the misery in his mind. Nobody would come and
let him out, nobody, nobody, nobody…
the whole of Christmas Day went by, and the succeeding
morning after Christmas the head clerk came into the office
at the usual time, opened the safe, then went on into his
No one saw
George Mason stagger out into the corridor, run to the water
cooler, and drink great gulps of water. No one paid any
attention to him as he left and took a taxi home.
shaved, changed his wrinkled clothes, ate breakfast, and
returned to his office where his employees greeted him
That day he
met several acquaintances and talked to his own brother.
Grimly, the truth closed in on George Mason. He had vanished
from human society during the great festival of brotherhood
and no one had missed him at all.
George Mason began to think about the true meaning of
Christmas. Was it possible that he had been blind all these
years with selfishness, indifference, and pride? Was not
giving, after all, the essence of Christmas because it
marked the time God gave His Son to the world?
the year that followed, with little hesitant deeds of
kindness, with small, unnoticed acts of unselfishness,
George Mason tried to prepare himself..
more, it was Christmas Eve.
backed out of the safe and closed it. He touched its grim,
steel face lightly, almost affectionately, and left the
goes now in his black overcoat and hat, the same George
Mason as a year ago. Or is it? He walks a few blocks, and
then flags a taxi, anxious not to be late. His nephews are
expecting him to help them trim the tree. Afterwards, he is
taking his brother and his sister-in-law to a Christmas
play. Why is he so happy? Why does this jostling against
others, laden as he is with bundles, exhilarate and delight
card has something to do with it, the card he taped inside
his office safe last New Year’s Day. On the card is
written, in George Mason’s own hand:
love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the
purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.”