Friday, December 19, 2014

Special Christmas Gift

The Envelope

Good morning my fellow Daybreakers. This is our last meeting before Christmas and I thought I would share a story with you that fits who we are as Rotarians. It is called “The Envelope” and it goes like this…

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, just plain. It has been in the branches of our tree for 10 years or so. It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas -- oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it -- overspending... the frantic running around, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, 12 that year, was wrestling in junior high and shortly before Christmas, there was a match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, I thought wow, they need the protection. Obviously they could not afford the gear. Well, we ended up beating them, taking every weight class. Mike said sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won. They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids -- all kids -- and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the church. On Christmas Eve, I placed an envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition -- one year sending a group of mentally disabled youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

I believe this story also represents the spirit of Rotary locally and around the world. Giving gifts to those in need on behalf of others is what we do, except we don’t just do it at Christmas time, we do it all year long.

May we each remember the true spirit of Christmas and the very special gift that was given to mankind over 2,000 years ago. It is the true reason for this season. May your holiday season be one of many blessings as you enjoy your time with family and loved ones. And that my friends is the Bottom of our News on this Friday, December 19, 2014!

Merry Christmas!