The Christmas Gift
By Mike Simpson
On December 24, someone knocked on Kathryn’s front door.
Having someone at her door always comes as a surprise to her. Since her husband, David, died in 2012, she has lived by herself on a farm in central Oklahoma. For a person in her early 80s, Kathryn is remarkably self-sufficient. She persistently (some might say “stubbornly”) resists all entreaties to sell her two farms and move closer to relatives or at least to civilization. And her resistance to being part of any sort of social group—like a bridge club, ladies circle, farming or professional women’s organization—is really a statement to the world: “I can still do whatever I need to do for myself, by myself.”
Thus it is always an unexpected interruption of her solitude when someone knocks at the door. She answered to find a group of teenagers clustered silently in her front yard.
“Merry Christmas,” said a girl in the front, holding out a wrapped package to her.
Kathryn accepted the gift gingerly. “What’s this for?”
Another of the young people spoke up, identifying the group as coming from a small church nearby. “We’re just giving presents to widows and orphans around Byars.”
She stared at them, totally incapable of responding. For nearly a minute she stood, looking from face to face. Then Kathryn started to cry. She sobbed and sobbed and could not stop crying. She hadn’t wept this way when David died. She could not remember having cried this hard, this long.
Some of the kids came to her and put their arms around her. More words were passed, greetings and blessings and things that she would not later recall. But the kids had others to visit. Quickly they got into their church van and pulled down her long driveway to the gravel road that led to the farm road and left her standing at her front door.
She went inside the house and opened the package. It was a handmade wrap, full length and nicely made; something she could pull around herself and keep warm on those cold, windy winter nights.
And then Kathryn called me and told me the story.
“What am I supposed to do?” she asked. “Shall I send them a check to put in the offering?”
“No, Mom. That’s not why they did it and that’s not what they’re looking for.”
“Well, should I send them a thank you card?”
“Yeah, that’s good. That would be nice. But they really got the ‘thank you’ they wanted when they saw how you received their gift. It would be hard to top that.”
She got quiet then. Clearly she was still struggling with what had just happened. “But why? Why would they do that for me? They don’t even know me.”
To be sure, as we are constantly reminded by every form of news media, there is wickedness, hostility and hypocrisy loose in our world. In the face of constant reminders about what is wrong and broken, it’s easy to forget the lesson Kathryn relearned on Christmas Eve: human beings are also capable of incredible, selfless, tender love.
And we don’t have to wait until December to show it.
Mike Simpson, is a retired minister, local writer and publisher of Indigo Sea Press.