I grew up in a foster home, and like many other foster children, we didn’t receive many presents. Every year, we were reminded of the many children who didn’t receive any presents at all. My foster parents were forever telling us that we should be grateful for what we had, because there were so many people who had less, and some who had nothing.
When Christmas time came, my foster sister and I were always excited. This was the only time we were allowed candies and sweets, a time when all of our foster relatives came by and we played music and danced and laughed. It was such a joyous occasion! It was also the only time we got any toys and books. I thought I was getting a doll one year, because I’d seen my dad making a very small cradle, and my mom had been sewing tiny little clothes – much too small for even a baby.
Christmas Eve came and like every other year, we went to the church hall to join in the mass and the party that followed. Santa would sit at the front of the room, and give out presents to each of the children. I found out many years later that the parents brought the presents to the hall, and Santa would just call out the names on the presents.
This particular year, we were all assembled in the hall after mass, even the Evans family, who were the poorest family in town. They had no heat in their house, and we’d seen them at our school many times without any food for their lunch.
One by one the children’s names were called and we walked up to the front and got our presents then returned to our seats. When all the presents were handed out, Santa yelled out “Merry Christmas to All” and then left to go to wherever they’d hid his reindeer. But wait! Santa made a mistake – he didn’t give any presents to the Evans children. Just as I was thinking that, my mother called out loudly, “There’s been some kind of mistake; these presents aren’t for my daughters, they’re supposed to be for the Evans girls”. Then she took the presents out of our hands and handed them to the Evans children. I couldn’t believe it! How could she take our presents away? We cried all the way home. This was the worst Christmas ever! When we got home, we were still crying as we walked into the house.
“I’ve had enough of that”, my dad sternly said. “Go up to your rooms right this minute and get into bed”.
We were washed and in bed, still crying when my mom came into the room. She knelt down beside our bed, and said softly, “I know you’re upset, but you have so much to be thankful for, you have our house to live in, and you’ve never gone hungry. There’ll always be next Christmas for you, but that poor Evans family has nothing. Your gift to them will give those children hope and will mean so much more to them. This is the truest Christmas gift you can ever give, and you should feel proud of yourself.
After she left the room, we laid there in the dark, thinking about what she said. It took awhile for us to get over feeling sorry for ourselves, and then a peaceful feeling came over us.
I slept better that night than any time before, because I had truly felt the spirit of Christmas.
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