February 10, 2014

Introducing the Why

Now before you say anything, I know that you’re reading this article almost two months after Christmas, and Yuletide cheer is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But if you’ll indulge me, I’ll share a bit about my holiday journey this past year.

If you’ve followed my column lately, you know that I’ve been talking a lot about serving others. In the weeks leading up to Christmas I felt as if God was hitting me over the head with this message, urging me to apply it. To be candid, I’m an innately selfish person. I struggle with materialism and perfectionism. I battle with these lusts of the flesh daily. And when I take my eye off the ball, I get caught up in the treasures of this world and furthering my own kingdom.

Not to be clichéd, but this year I was determined to exemplify the true meaning of Christmas. When my wife, Natalie, asked what gifts I wanted, I told her not to get me anything. This wasn’t some reverse-psychology ploy; I truly wanted to take the focus off of myself this year.

That meant actively looking for ways to bless others.

About a week and a half before Christmas I was talking to one of my friends at church who was going through a difficult time financially. As we talked, he mentioned that he didn’t even have a Christmas tree for his kids. Later that day I casually relayed the conversation to Natalie. It turned out that she had also encountered a family without a tree.

Natalie is one of those people who will actually follow through on a great idea, instead of just talking about how wonderful it sounds in theory. She suggested that we take it upon ourselves to bring Christmas trees to these two families that following Sunday morning.

“Sure, sounds good to me,” I replied.

In my mind, however, I downplayed the impact. It’s just a tree. They could probably use presents or some extra money a whole lot more.

Wisely—as any good husband knows—I kept my reservations to myself. The next day we borrowed my brother-in-law’s Ford F-150 and headed down to Lowe’s. By this point, the pickings were slim. Thankfully, we were able to find a couple of perfect six-foot noble firs that would bring the Christmas spirit to any living room. We finished up by loading our cart with bases for the trees, ornaments, and a few strands of lights.

After delivering the trees, we headed home. Based on their reactions I knew these two families had been blessed. But I still didn’t feel like we’d done much. That changed exactly one week later.

The next Sunday, we ran into one of the families. As we exchanged pleasantries, the mother told us that her youngest son had made something for us. The 10-year-old boy handed Natalie a folded paper. On the front of the handmade card was a beautiful red poinsettia. Inside was a picture of a living room, complete, of course, with a perfect Christmas tree.

The following is a portion of the note he had written:

“Thank you for the tree; we really appreciate it. I think God will pick you when the day comes and when all will be taken to heaven. You and your husband should have the best Christmas ever! Thank you for everything you have done for us. . . . I hope someday we can do something for you. Like the Bible says, ‘Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.’ That is one of my favorite verses.”

As Natalie read the card out loud, our eyes filled with tears. Needless to say, I had drastically underestimated the impact of a Christmas tree.

Christmas is an easy time of year to do things for those less fortunate. But the effect of such a simple act made me wonder: how many times do I pass up similar opportunities throughout the year? “Do unto others” shouldn’t be a holiday motto; it should be a lifestyle.

Turns out, the Bible is full of wisdom. It just took a 10-year-old to remind me.