The Greatest Gift


“The greatest gift that you can give is when you give of yourself.” I have often heard this, but it never really affected me until one Christmas—a Christmas I will never forget.

It all started with a seminary project. We were asked to take a fruit basket to an elderly person. I had not wanted to go, but somehow I found myself at the seminary waiting for my class to arrive.

Some would call it a mere coincidence, but I saw the hand of the Lord in it when my class did not show up. Fortunately, my friend’s class was also going, and I was able to go along with them. I remember the conversations that we had on the way to the elderly man’s house:

Cindy, who was a little insecure but tried to cover up for it by talking incessantly, picked Jody out as an easy target for her taunting remarks. “Jody, who did you ask to the dance?”

Lisa understood Jody’s needs and shyness and answered quickly as Jody hesitated. “I’m taking Dave, in my history class. Jody, maybe we could double.”

Jody responded to Lisa’s sensitivity. “We really should. That sounds like a lot of fun. I’m taking Tom. I thought he played so well in the football game yesterday.”

That ended the dance conversation, but the radio kept playing and the conversation moved to another subject. No one in the car was really thinking about the old man we were going to see or what was in store. We were thinking more in terms of ourselves, and maybe that was why it came as such a shock when our car stopped in front of a worn-down house that looked deserted. There were tall weeds that had taken over the front lawn, the paint on his home was chipped, and there was a long crack in his front window.

As we got out of the car and looked around the neighborhood, we noticed that all the houses looked just the same as this man’s. The rain was pouring down, disturbing the sleeping dog that was lying in the gutter.

Not wanting to go any further, yet knowing we had better unless we wanted to drown in the rain, we proceeded to his front door. After ringing the doorbell and waiting for about two minutes, we turned around to go back to the car. Then we heard the screen door open. As we turned back to the house, we saw an elderly man clad in worn dresspants and an old sweater. He gave us a smile that without words said, “I wouldn’t even care if you had the wrong house; can we talk for a moment?”

We told him that we were from a local high school and that if he would allow us to we would like to come in and talk with him. He looked very shocked but welcomed us just the same.

As we entered the house, we were touched by a very strong spirit. His house wasn’t much—it consisted of a threadbare couch, a table, a small lamp, a chair, and one small evergreen branch that was decorated and served as his Christmas tree. You could see he didn’t have many material comforts, but we sensed he had something more; he had the Spirit of the Lord.

He invited us to sit down and chat for a few minutes. We sat down and told him we had prepared a story and a song that we would like to share with him. He said that would be just fine, and we proceeded with our program.

We told him our story and began our song. As we were singing “I Am a Child of God,” each of us felt his spirit and noticed the tears, but we continued on as best we could. As we came to the conclusion of the song, we were all in tears due to the special feeling radiating through the home.

When we stood up to leave, not wanting to but knowing we had better, the elderly man said, “This has meant so much to me. You see, last week my wife died, and we had the funeral two days ago. I have really dreaded this Christmas.”

As we gave him a final hug, he continued on with what he was saying. “You girls have brought a new light to this special occasion. I thank you, and I want you to know that you have made a lonely old man very happy.”

With tears in our eyes, we left his house very humbled and filled with the Spirit of the Lord. As we rode home in the car, there was no loud music, there was no talk of boys and dates. The car was filled with silence, but there was a joy that was felt by everyone.

[illustration] Illustrated by Jon Anderson