It was only five days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn’t yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our Houston area Target Shopping Center. Inside the store, it was worse.
Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing, but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn’t buy them something. Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift buying anything but fun.
Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20-minute wait. In front of me were two small children, a boy of about 10 and a younger girl about 5. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl’s clothing resembled her brother’s. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store’s stereo system, the girl hummed along off key but happily. When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up he bill.
“That will be $6.09” the clerk said, as the boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets finally coming up with $3.12.
“I guess we will have to put them back, ” he bravely said. “We’ll come back some other time, maybe tomorrow.”
With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl.
“But Jesus would have loved these shoes,” she cried.
“Well, we’ll go home and work some more. Don’t cry. We’ll come back,” he said.
Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas.
Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, “Thank you, Sir.”
“What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?” I asked.
The small boy answered, “Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Dad said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus.”
The girl spoke, “My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won’t mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?”
My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face.
“Yes,” I answered, “I am sure she will.”
Silently, I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving. Christmas is not about the amount of money paid, nor the amount of gifts purchased, nor trying to impress friends and relatives. Christmas is about the love in your heart to share with those as Jesus Christ has shared with each of us. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus whom God sent to show the world how much he really loves us.
Please show this love as we think of the upcoming season.