Because I Love You


I’ll walk with you./ I’ll talk with you./ That’s how I’ll show my love for you. (Children’s Songbook, page 140.)

Tina knew how she was supposed to feel at Christmas. After all, she attended her Primary class, and she listened to her teacher. She knew all the right answers: It is better to give than to receive. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do unto others as … *

It was a tradition in Tina’s family to help a needy family every year, and she and her brother, Mack, and her sister, Juleen, would help decide what gifts to buy for that family’s children. Her whole family always went to deliver the gifts, which usually included a case of oranges, a turkey or ham, and a big box of groceries. Tina liked doing it. Even so, she secretly felt that “the joy of giving” was somewhat overrated. It seemed pretty routine to her, even though she knew she couldn’t admit that to anyone without seeming to be a grouch.

The night after her folks had explained that this year they would be helping a Vietnamese family down the block and that she was to choose gifts for a girl about her own age, Tina knelt down to say her prayers. As she finished with her nightly thank-yous and “please blesses,” she added fervently, “Heavenly Father, please help me to choose something Kia will enjoy. And please, please help me to find the spirit of Christmas so I can know the kind of joy I keep hearing and reading about. I don’t really think I have a hard heart, but it seems to me that people keep making too big a deal about giving to others. Help me to understand.”

At school the next day, Tina took special notice of Kia. Before, she was just the Oriental girl who couldn’t talk very well and who wore dresses that were too long and shoes that looked like boys’ shoes. Tina couldn’t remember whether or not she had ever spoken directly to her. At recess she found Kia leaning against the side of the building, watching the other children build a snow fort. Since she had no gloves and wore only those funny shoes, it was easy to see why she wasn’t participating.

“Hi, Kia. Do you like the snow?”

“I do not like. It is very cold.”

Tina made a mental note that warm boots would make a nice gift. That decision made, she turned to join her frolicking classmates. Something, however, made her pause and turn back to the dark-eyed Kia with another question. “Kia, what would you like for Christmas?”

“Christmas? I do not know about Christmas.”

Tina tried to explain about the birth of Christ and the gifts that were brought by the Wise Men and the traditions of gift-giving and love that have been carried down through the years, but she soon realized that Kia did not understand very much English. She tried to make it simple. “Kia,” she said, “on Christmas we give gifts to people we love. Do you understand gifts?

Kia nodded. “I understand. My mother make a gift to me. These shoes—see? She buy them at a first-hand clothes shop.”

Tina was about to explain that it was actually a second-hand clothing store, but somehow that did not seem important. “Kia, I want to give you a gift for Christmas. What would you like?”

“A gift because you love me?”

Tina was not sure how to answer. It was obvious that Kia had understood every word of her simple explanation of Christmas gifts. Fortunately the bell rang to signal the end of recess. “We’ll talk after school, Kia. We’d better hurry now.”

As Tina was getting her things from her locker after school, her friend Stacie approached. “Hi, Tina. Natalie and I are going to walk by Ferguson’s Department Store and look at the neat window displays. Want to come?”

“Sure, Stace, just a minute.”

As she turned to join her friend, Tina saw Kia standing expectantly a little way down the hall. She was tempted to pretend that she didn’t see her, but when Kia’s hand lifted hesitantly in a kind of shy greeting, she waved back. “Hey, Stace, I guess I’d better not go with you tonight. I have to … I mean, I sort of made a promise to do something else.”

“OK. I have to hurry—Natalie is waiting. Plan to come with us tomorrow.”

She could have coaxed me a little, Tina thought with a tinge of disappointment as she greeted Kia. “Hi. I see you didn’t forget.”

“No. No. I not forget.”

“Well, now, we were talking about what you would like for a Christmas gift.”

“Yes. Yes. A gift because you love me.”

“Well, ah, yes. I guess so. What one thing would you like most?”

“Ah, I need no thing. My family has some food each day and things to wear from the first-hand shop.”

Tina felt exasperation growing within her. “Well, you must want something.”

Immediately the slender girl stiffened, and Tina regretted her impatience. “Kia,” she said more kindly, “I really do like you, and I would like to know you better. There must be something you want.”

“I want two things. I want very much to have a friend—and I want to be able to speak the English well.”

“I know—let’s walk home together, Kia. My house is near your house. On the way I’ll help you learn more English words.”

As the two girls walked homeward, Tina pointed to objects and spoke their names clearly: Sidewalk. Snow. Lights. Decorations. Christmas tree.

Kia pronounced each word with difficulty; but her laughter bore no trace of an accent. When they reached Tina’s house, Kia said, “Good-bye, Tina. You have made me glad. I really like to talk the English. Will you also yesterday help me?”

Tina laughed. “You mean tomorrow, Kia. Tomorrow is the day after today. And yes, I will help you tomorrow.”

Tina hadn’t forgotten that Stacie and Natalie would again be going to the mall, but she couldn’t ignore the eagerness in Kia’s face. In fact, she suspected that she was learning a little more about the joy of giving. The warm boots would be easy—especially since her dad would be paying for the gift—but the gifts of friendship and time were different. As Kia disappeared into the little house down the street, her words came back to Tina’s mind: “A gift because you love me?”

“Yes,” Tina whispered as she skipped home, a wonderful warmth welling up inside her. “Yes, Kia. A gift because I love you.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jerry Harston