Gifts from the heart remembered |

Gifts from the heart remembered

Dylan's candy cane and Joni's cereal gifts to Mrs. Thompson.

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My friend Susan had invited me to visit for tea and to see her Christmas decorations. Every room was filled with ornaments, each of the basement stairs held a Teddy bear, the dinning table was laid with holiday cloth and dishes. Everywhere I looked, from the flickering flames of the fireplace, to the 7-foot tree, my heart filled with the anticipation of Christmas.

“I love to reminisce as I unpack the ornaments. I enjoy them each day of the Christmas season, and then reminisce some more as I pack them away,” said Susan. “Most of them were given to me by my Aunt Hazel who fashioned them all by hand.”

Susan had taught first grade in a small town in Tennessee. She had 25, 6-year-olds, five or six of them knew no English, and she knew no Spanish. She told me how she thought she could reach each one of the eager to learn little ones. One little boy, who wanted so badly to learn, would copy others’ papers but he cried because he couldn’t make sentences with the spelling words when there was an oral test. The first time the class had P.E., he was so scared of the new experience that Susan had to carry him to the gym. Once there he realized he could excel here. The next summer he and his parents were at a store where he saw his teacher. He ran up to her with a big smile on his face. “I thank you teach me English,” he said.

There was an artificial tree in the classroom. The children made decorations with construction paper, glue and lots of glitter. When they finished their assignments, they could tie a curly ribbon bow onto the tree. It was soon covered with colorful bows which they could take home at the holiday break. Somehow they each knew where they had tied the ribbons they had earned.

The afternoon before Christmas break, Susan would un-wrap the gifts the children had brought to her – lotion, perfume, knick knacks and homemade cookies or jelly. Each child was thanked for the gift they gave. The last two gifts Susan opened were the most memorable.

“Let me show you these gifts that were given from the hearts of two precious kids,” said Susan as she knelt down to pick up a small package of notebook paper that had been folded many times and nearly covered with tape. Joni, who lived in a hotel close to school, whose yard was filled with broken washing machines, and old boxes, had brought some of her cereal from the free breakfast program to each later in the day. But instead of eating it she gave it to her teacher.

Next she took a candy cane off of a branch. “Dylan got this from the Santa party that the town had for the poor children. He came from a rough home, where they probably had no candy, and he gave me the gift that had been given to him,” said Susan.

With tears welling up in her eyes, she said, “These children wanted to be like the other students, so they gave me all they had. Every year I put these on our tree and wonder what has become of these two sweet kids.”

“These gifts remind me of the widow in Luke 21:4, whose small gift was a sacrifice, but was given willingly,” I said with a lump in my throat.

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