Christmas is a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. The One who came and will come again. Growing up that wasn’t a priority in my home so my focus had always been on the gifts under the tree. What did Santa bring? Did he get the letter I wrote? What if I’m on the “naughty list,” will I not get anything?
Many years later I married a man who was raised in a Christian orphanage in the 1930’s. He described the orphanage as a big scary, ugly gray building, and there were a lot of kids. There were dorms filled with single beds. On one side of the building were the boys and on the other side of the building were the girls. He was four years old when his daddy left him abandoned in a hospital and he never saw him, or his family, again.
When Christmas rolled around, the many children would receive one gift each. Usually it was a small toy or a piece of clothing they needed. One bicycle was donated one year for all the boys to share. There was not funds for such an extravagant gift for each child. Toys were shared and outgrown clothes handed down.
His stories always brought tears to my eyes.
Even after all those years and now married I didn’t regard Christmas as holy but I wanted to make our first Christmas very special for my new husband. One day I suddenly felt very strongly that I wanted a manger scene. I’d seen many in stores, they were always touting Christ’s birth, so I bought one and as I took the pieces out of the box, I started to place the pieces on the glass topped table, only I didn’t know who went where.
My husband sat watching and could tell I didn’t know one piece from the other and quietly came over and knelt down beside me. “Oh Su-Su, look at this one of Joseph.” And he set it in its place. He did that with each piece, commenting about them and never condemning me or making fun because of my ignorance.
We bought a seven foot tree and with Christmas music playing we had fun decorating with all the silver tinsel, colorful balls, and lights. With great care he took the angel out of my hands and stepped onto the ladder. Carefully he positioned the angel on the top of the tree and then stood looking down at me grinning. He’d never been able to do that before. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I gazed up at him.
As I shopped for the gifts I wanted to place under the Christmas tree I would remember that one gift he would receive each Christmas at the orphanage during his 13 years of living there. I bought everything I could think of that I thought he could use or want.
While he was at work I would take a package of socks and wrap each pair separately. The same with new shorts, or a pair of tennis shoes, (one shoe in one box, the other in another) a sweat band he’d use for running, a screw driver. I had packages galore for this man I loved. I made a vow that he would have more gifts to open than Santa had in his big red bag. He would never be deprived of the joy of opening lots of gifts again.
Christmas morning was cold. And snuggled down under a layer of covers my man jumped from the bed while pulling me by the arm like a kid at the break of dawn. “Come on Su-Su, it’s Christmas, we can open our gifts!” He raced down the stairs and plopped in front of the Christmas tree looking up expectantly as I slowly, and sleepily, maneuvered the stairs while tying my bathrobe around me.
I sat in the chair with teary eyes watching this grown man rip open gift after gift with a smile that lit up the whole room. He’d laugh joyfully when it was another pair of socks, he’d crunch his face up and say, “Hmmm, I wonder what this is” as he’d gently shake the wrapped box.
I know people feel the same way watching their little ones rip open gifts, squeal with joy if its something they really wanted, but to watch a grown man who has overcome so much rejection, having been abandoned, and deprived of what so many others received… indescribable.
The years that followed were the same. Many gifts, much love, laughter, and huge Christmas dinners.
It still brings tears to my eyes and a smile as I remember those years. I cherish those memories.
He doesn’t need a lot of gifts now. There are no Christmas trees or manger scenes. Instead of gazing in wonder at a ceramic baby Jesus in a manger…
he is gazing into the very eyes of the greatest gift of all time –
To read the full story of this incredible man’s journey : THE NARROW ROAD is his story and available on Amazon.