During this time of year, my solo concerts and teaching seminars slow down. The pace allows me to volunteer more and be a bit more involved with my family and friends. Either way I win, so I embrace the moment of life given. It is Christmas!
Over the weekend, during my volunteer work at the Toys for Tots Warehouse, my patience and last nerve was fully tested. With over countless people coming through building, the noise, clutter, mishaps, running children, squeals and even some discontented parents started to wear on my last nerve. But as the song says, “Put on a Happy Face!” and that we did. Even when sorely tested, the lull of the Christmas music, the smiles and even an occasional hug offset most of the issues.
As the afternoon was winding down, a lady with three children came into the warehouse. I saw the children and thought well, maybe someone else will help them. I went back to clearing up some clutter and was about my business.
After a few minutes the lady was still near the front door looking but not touching. Her children were close and had those big brown eyes that just sparkled. She looked around, a bit lost and frazzled. As much as I wanted to finish and leave for the day (I was tired!), I asked if I could help her. I could tell she seemed a bit down but was trying to make the best of the moment.
As I walked closer toward the family, I heard her say to the children, “Boys, be good and don’t be rowdy! Daddy’s watching!” She asked about the Tonka Trucks, a fire engine, and if we had airplanes. Of course we had lots of toys. People had given liberally this year and it seemed we had plenty.
I took over to the cars and trucks. As the boys looked in awe, I asked their ages. She politely replied with a big smile, 11, nine and six. She gave their names, but I really did not listen well. The youngest boy pointed, saying that was “the one Santa was gonna bring him.” The middle boy saw the fire trucks and ladder rigs; he said that was what he wanted for Christmas. The oldest walked around until he found an Air Force plane that was about as big as he was. He stood there just looking and smiling. They were well behaved and polite. They had manners. This was not so bad after all.
As Mom and I talked, I asked her why she had said, “Daddy’s watching?” when clearly she and the boys were alone. At that moment, she turned quiet for a bit with a faraway look in her eye. In a low somber voice, she said, “This is the first Christmas we’ve ever had alone. Their Daddy was killed in the middle east by a car bomb. It happened just after he went back last Christmas.”
I stood there. I was looking for the right words to say. Then the boys came running back and asking about something that went right by me.
In that very moment, my mind wandered back to a time when my brothers and I would wake up early on Christmas morning just to see what Santa had put under the tree for us. I remembered the smells of cookies, coffee, bacon and my Mom singing in the kitchen. I remember Dad playing with us boys on the floor in front of the Christmas Tree. At my advanced age, I still smile and am wishful when I think of those times in that small little house in Deep Gap, NC.
Then someone hollered, “ Look out!” I looked around the cold warehouse floor, there the boys played and heard them ask again about GI Joe and bicycles.
As I saw those three boys smiling and just playing in Toyland, I asked the lady how she was doing. With that far-away look in her eye she said, “Not a day passes that I don’t think of him, talk to him and sometimes cry.” By this time I was getting misty-eyed. She said her families and the locals had really helped out, “But this year was hard.” She went on, saying they had to move to a different house after the foreclosure, and that there were delays in getting military benefits for the family. By this time I was stunned, starting to get agitated at a system I knew nothing about.
She knew I was getting agitated. She said, “It’s okay! We will go through the process and it will work out. God’s got it under His control.” I was surprised at that comment. It was not what I expected. She said, “If it were not for my faith in God and His blessings, I wouldn’t have made it this far.” Wow, what a sermon was just given to me. Her words were truly a blessing to me.
As the boys were taken to other aisles, we loaded her car with the toys they wanted. I got their address to make sure that on Christmas Eve, three shining bicycles will be on their doorstep. Other volunteers made sure there was food boxes and candies for the boys loaded in that old car. Mom looked shocked at the out-pouring of attention.
I thanked her for her service to this country and to me. She suffered a loss, so that I could be free. It was so Americans in all places could celebrate this one time of year we call Christmas. Others saluted her while the boys (who I now knew by name) were told how proud their Dad would be of them taking care of their Mom. I can’t tell you how I felt when I watched the boys waiving from the back seat as they drove away. God had just given me another Christmas gift.
Now the point. When you least expect it God allows a blessing to come your way that re-affirms your faith. A blessing comes to teach you that your life is never as bad as you think. A blessing comes to encourage you to live life fully, in the moment.
That family’s sacrifice is huge. But still greater, there was a historical sacrifice made for all mankind as our Creator gave His only son, to be born with a life’s purpose of being the ultimate universal sacrifice for all. The Christ Child is the only Person in all of mankind that has changed people for good. His teachings and principles are still impacting this world for good. Yes this Christmas we celebrate HIS life in great joy, blessing and thankfulness!
It is with renewed spirit and thankfulness I can say I know that Christ lives today! Merry Christmas to all!
By Charlie Griffin
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