To Give and Give Again

By Rebecca Strand Russon

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    Christmas that year had promised to be one of our best ever. Jim had graduated from dental school earlier in the year, and we had expected that he would open his own office soon and that we would have plenty of money for a wonderful Christmas. I dreamed of new clothes, new Christmas decorations, fruitcake baking in the oven, and gifts for everyone.

    Instead, our lives were in turmoil for months. It had been more difficult than I had imagined to leave our cozy apartment and good friends and move to a different part of the country. The move had depleted what was left of our scanty bank account, and new bills were piling up.

    Then I became pregnant with our second child, nearly lost the baby, and was required to severely limit my activities. Jim was gone for what seemed endless hours, working late night after night trying to get the new business ready to open. When he was home, he was cheerful and good company, but I had never felt so alone.

    The business finally opened its doors in November—one month later than we had planned—which left us behind on paying our bills. Earlier in the year, we had comforted ourselves with the belief that by this time, money would be coming in from Jim’s new dental practice. But it wasn’t happening yet. We had little money for food—and no money for anything extra.

    I became more depressed as Christmas approached. We squeezed a few dollars from the budget to buy some storybooks and a toy for our eighteen-month-old son, Erik. I told myself that gifts under the tree were of no real importance, and that the spirit of Christmas was what truly mattered. But I just couldn’t feel that Christmas spirit.

    I gift-wrapped the books and the toy and placed them under our much-used, second-hand artificial Christmas tree. We set up our cardboard Nativity scene and strung a few mismatched ornaments around the room.

    When Christmas morning arrived, we carried Erik to the tree to open his presents. There was a lump of sadness in my throat as he opened his gifts. Where was the joy I was supposed to feel?

    Then Jim put his arm around my shoulders and placed a small package on my lap. My fingers trembled as I tore away the wrapping paper and found a red velvet box. I couldn’t believe it! Only expensive gifts came in boxes like that. Where could Jim have found the money?

    As I opened it, my heart seemed to stop. Inside was the pendant Jim had given me for an earlier Christmas, before we were married. With it was a note: “With love—again. Jim.”

    My eyes filled with tears as I realized that the pendant represented his love for me. The ache in my heart vanished and was replaced by a feeling of inexpressible love and joy. I felt the spirit of Christmas at last.

    I will never forget the lesson a compassionate husband taught me that Christmas morning—that love is the most precious gift of all.

    Illustrated by Larry Winborg