In 2014, I want to give 365 unexpected gifts of HOPE to the people in my life.
I first thought of this idea at our December Writers’ Group meeting. Our group meets monthly to share what we have written and to encourage one another to keep writing. The hostess for December suggested we share a Christmas memory or a family holiday tradition.
One of the participants read his compelling story of an extravagant Christmas gift he received when he was six years old. Although his parents lacked financial resources, they gave him a Radio Flyer train set that year. He calculated that it might have cost as much as a week’s wages of both his parents.
You see, he had contracted polio earlier that year and the train set represented his parents’ gratitude for their son’s survival from the most feared childhood disease of that time. This sacrificial gift was an outward sign of their HOPE for his future.
The story of the train set evoked a memory from when I was about eleven-years old. Our family also lacked financial resources. One day in mid December that year, I found my mother weeping hopelessly at the kitchen sink. I asked what was wrong.
She whimpered, “We have no money to buy Christmas gifts this year and we won’t have a Christmas tree either.”
At that moment, I desperately needed to do something to encourage my mother. Christmas gifts were unimportant to me, but I had to find a way to get a Christmas tree because I knew it would make her happy again. I had no money. Where could I possibly get a free Christmas tree?
Then, it dawned on me — why not cut a wild evergreen from the forest on our farm? During warmer weather, I had spent many hours walking through the woods and I knew exactly where to find an evergreen tree within a half mile of the house.
Pulling my sled and with a rope and an old saw in hand, I trudged into the forest. There it was, my tree of HOPE, just where I had spotted it the summer before. I cut it down and tied it to the sled with the rope, pulling it back to our yard in the snow. The tree was only about three feet tall and a bit crooked, but it had a heavenly fresh evergreen scent.
In the forest, against the drab backdrop of the leaf-barren trees, the tree appeared green; in our living room, it took on a somewhat brownish cast. Nevertheless, Mom cried happy tears when she first saw it. HOPE had once again returned to our home.
That afternoon, she took leave from all her Saturday chores and dug out a tattered Christmas box from the back of the closet. On the branches of our fresh tree, Mom and I placed the old string of lights and then the familiar ornaments, each with its own sweet memory.
At the bottom of the Christmas box, we found the final touch, the tinsel that we had saved from year to year. We carefully removed strands of it from the slots cut in a piece cardboard from a writing tablet and placed them on our tree one by one. The tinsel filled the gaping holes between the branches and it sparkled with the slightest movement of air in the glow of the shining bulbs.
That year, Mom bragged about “the most beautiful tree she’d ever seen” to all our visitors. It was far from perfect in a physical sense, however, it was the perfect gift of HOPE for a discouraged mother. Oh, what joy I felt in my heart that Christmas!
The memory of our tree of HOPE gave me an inspiration for the coming year. Why not give 365 gifts of HOPE in 2014 – one each day to someone in my life? It could be a smile, a thank you, a compliment, a note sent in the mail, a phone call, an email, a Facebook message, a pat on the shoulder, a hug, or a small favor. What a difference a simple gift of HOPE might make for someone in desperate need of encouragement!
Join me in bringing an offering of HOPE to just one person each day this year! Then record your gifts of HOPE in a journal and share them here on this blog if you like.