I have been on this earth long enough to have seen 68 Christmases come and go, although I have no strong memories of the first four or five. But one stands out for its own unique reasons. Allow me to share it with you.
It was the Christmas of 1962. That was a difficult year for the Sabol family, for that summer my mother reached the breaking point and decided to leave my father. I was 12, my brother was 10, and our baby sister was six weeks old. I was confused, broken, afraid, and uncertain about the future. After all, I was the only student in my 7th grade class not living with both biological parents (it was obviously a different era in American history).
The only marketable skill that my mother had was serving food in diners and restaurants. She was raising three kids on her own, and there were no social safety nets back then. None. Well, except government surplus food which occasionally gave us a block of cheese, peanut butter and dried milk. Because of her limited income, mom moved us into a house rented by an elderly lady who was raising her two teenage grandchildren. Mom paid $40.00 a week for room and board, which left little for much else. Mom told me and my brother Bill that we shouldn’t expect much if anything for Christmas that year because money was really tight, and I understood that as much as a 12 year old could.
So, Christmas morning came, and, because of low or no expectations, I wasn’t my usual, eager self. I slowly made my way down the stairs and over to our “Christmas Tree” (think Charlie Brown here). There to my surprise was a small wicker basket under the tree with my name on it! I rushed over, picked it up, and in it were some clear toys (Clear toy candy is a traditional confectionery that originated in Germany, England and Scotland. It’s especially popular at Easter and Christmas. The hard candy is made in molds, in a multitude of fun shapes. The candy is tinted in bright colors, traditionally yellow, red and green. See the picture above). There was also a big, juicy orange.
My 12 year old self was elated! Expecting nothing, I now had something. I remember spending most of that Christmas day in front of the flickering black and white television watching Christmas shows with the humble gift basket on my lap. I was so thrilled about what I got! Compared to the other, more lucrative Christmases I remembered, what was in the basket could have seemed paltry. But it didn’t. To me it was the best Christmas yet.
My formative years were very difficult, but in them I learned many valuable lessons that still influence me decades later. Lessons like, “Little things mean a lot!” That’s true in life and especially in relationships. Please, do not underestimate the power of the smallest gift, a simple kind word, a seemingly insignificant gesture, or the humblest act of service. Little things do mean a lot.
Many years ago the Lord led me to deliver a message using Zechariah 4:10 as the text. It says, “Who dares despise the day of small things?” Indeed, how dare we? Tomorrow morning (Christmas Day), when all the gifts are being opened, and wrapping paper is flying in every direction, remember the small things. When family and friends gather for a meal or party, remember the small things. In January when the new year dawns and the tree and decorations are stowed away, remember the small things.
So, the moral of this story for me is that clear toys bring clarity.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Keep it simple!