When It Seems All Hope Is Lost

What does Christmas mean to a little child? The answer would depend on his or her life situation. A child living in a family that has everything they need would probably be filled with anticipation of lots of presents, toys, candies, family gatherings, and all the food he could want.

But a little girl living in a ramshackle shack with a dad in jail or prison and a mother who had to do who-knows-what due to lack of education, just to put food on the table, wouldn’t have very high expectations. Such was my situation when I was about four or five years old. I don’t know what kind of work my mother had to do back then. I know she was home with me at night. Sometimes she babysat a little boy around my age named DonnyBob. She found work wherever she could.

My father was in jail for public drunkenness and brawling. It was Christmas Eve and we had no food in the house. Our dresses were almost threadbare. There was no tree, no presents. I honestly don’t remember what my feelings were–until the Boy Scouts came. They went to the house across the street first, but those people had left hurriedly (so my mother said later).

The Boy Scouts brought us a Christmas dinner: ham, sweet potatoes, and I don’t remember what else. I do remember there was more than enough food. There was also a doll for me, so there must have been a little girl that lived across the street. There was a dress for my mom and one for me. I guess it was the right size. I remember thinking that all of those things were meant for us until Mom told me about the people across the street. It was a meager but blessed Christmas.

Contrast that to my first Christmas after Mom married my stepdad, who would have spoiled me rotten if Mom had let him. That first Christmas after they married, I got up Christmas morning feeling like Shirley Temple in “The Little Princess.” There was a small wooden table with two matching chairs. There were games, puzzles (I love puzzles), and more clothes than my mom could wrap. I remember asking who all that stuff was for. My dad had the biggest grin I’d ever seen (then or since) on his face. He nodded to me and my mom said, “Honey, they’re yours.”

Looking back, it’s not the gifts, the abundance of presents: it’s the overwhelming love that came from my new dad, love that I had not felt in a very long time from a parent. I really needed a dad, and God gave me one.