‘Twas the Night Before Christmas — And No Presents
(The following is a true story that my mother had told me. I recently verified the details with her surviving brother and sister.)
Growing up I heard my mom tell this story multiple times. Even after sixty plus years, that Christmas morning still remained a vivid and special memory to her. During the Great Depression, my mother’s family was very poor. My grandfather had a heart attack at age twenty-five; that left him in a weakened condition for years. And as the Great depression settled in, there were few jobs for someone in his condition and those he did get . . . paid little. They had four children at the time and life was hard.
They trusted the Lord and survived on the generosity of family and friends, most of whom lived on farms, so during the summers Grandma would can a lot of produce for the winter months. Grandpa’s brother had a good job and always supplied the family with milk. Beans were the main staple since meat was hard to get and very expensive. A pot of beans was always on the stove, and my witty aunt jokingly said they ate so many beans that she understood why we are called, “human-beans!” Staying warm in the winter was difficult, but they lived near a railroad track not far from a rail yard. All the jerking of the cars as a train started rolling would cause loose coal to fly off the open coal cars. Grandma would send the kids to go collect what coal they could find on the tracks for heating their home.
The Christmas of my mother’s memory had been an especially difficult year financially for the family. The kids had their church play and received their little bags of candy, each with its one chocolate drop–the only chocolate they’d have for the entire year, so it was very special. My mom was about six years old, and that Christmas had her little heart set on getting a stand-up dolly with real hair she could comb. However, she and her sisters and brothers had no idea how bleak Christmas was going to be. Grandma and Grandpa felt terrible that Christmas Eve as they gathered together their children for bedtime prayers.
Grandma was always focused on the Lord and the practical things of life, so she never spoke too much about Santa and all that business. The kids huddled around their mother as she said, “This has been a difficult year. The Lord has provided, and we still have a home and food to eat. And for this, we are grateful! Your father and I have not been able to buy you the Christmas presents you would like for this Christmas. Actually it’s worse . . . we haven’t been able to buy you any presents this Christmas. So, let’s try not to think about ourselves tomorrow morning on Christmas Day but remember the gift of the little baby Jesus that God has given to us. He gave us the Greatest Gift of all!”
With that, they said their prayers and climbed into bed. Grandma walked down the winding stairs gliding her hand along the old, worn banister as she descended, praying in her heart, “Oh Father, if there is some way, by some miracle you could give the kids presents for Christmas morning, I would be so grateful.” And with tears, she stepped down into the living room to go read her Bible for the night and pray for relatives and other struggling families. SQUEAL, thump, BAM! penetrated the house as metal hit the ground outside! A large truck had pulled up to the front of the house. Grandma and Grandpa heard it, the kids heard it, and then they heard the pounding at the door. On the dark porch step stood a smiling man holding a box.
Stunned, my grandparents watched as this stranger carried in the box and put it under their empty Christmas tree. Grandma saw the kids peering through the upstairs banister and told them to stay up there. Then the man brought in another box, and another, and more boxes, and then even more boxes!! He was a local businessman who every Christmas would pick out some poor families and give them the toys he had left over from his Christmas sales. He brought in so many toys that Grandma filled a closet with them for future birthdays and the following Christmas! The kids were beside themselves with excitement, but Grandma made them go back to bed. She profusely thanked the man, and then in her heart said, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you, thank you so very much!”
Christmas morning came, and Grandma and Grandpa made the kids, wide-eyed with excitement, stand together around the gifts holding hands. Grandma prayed, “Thank you again, dear Jesus, for providing Christmas presents for our children, and may they always see Your hand in their lives. In Jesus name, Amen!” The kids dove into the pile with giggles and glee, and my mom climbed out with a long box. She opened the box, and her little heart nearly burst . . . inside was a stand-up dolly with real hair she could comb.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalms 37:4 NIV
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33 NIV
Copyright © 2009 by William D. (Nick) Nichols