This story is about a family that was having a difficult December.
Mostly, they were doing OK. Everyone was healthy, and their home was a happy one. But some bills had to be paid just as the month began, and their savings dipped. There was still plenty to offer their daughter plenty of presents, though, and to have a festive meal.
They came home one day, however, to find that the kitchen refrigerator had stopped humming. Their first clue, I’m sorry to say, came when they opened the door and two things happened: (1) the light didn’t come on and (2) a really sour smell came out. All the food in the refrigerator had spoiled when it stopped working.
They called a repair person, but that worthy individual just shook his head and said, “That’s it for this one.” The family had to buy a new refrigerator just before Christmas.
That brought their savings down quite a lot, and replacing the spoiled food made a big dent in what was left. The parents knew there wouldn’t be many Christmas presents for their daughter that year, and a sadness crept into their holiday smiles.
On Christmas morning, however, their daughter showed no disappointment when fresh fruit rather than toys filled her stocking. She peeled her orange and promptly stuck one of its sections into her mouth whole. When she peeled back her lips in an impish grin, the fruit section smiled orange for her.
Beneath the tree, the small stack of boxes mostly contained clothes – she was growing, of course, and truly needed the new outfits. She showed now disappointment at the lack of toys, though. She glowed with pride that she was probably the only girl in her class who would have Spider-man pajamas.
As the last box passed from wrapped to unwrapped, the parents glanced at each other sadly at how little she had to play with from her Christmas morning. Their daughter, however, didn’t hesitate at all. She made a beeline for the kitchen, where the cardboard box for the refrigerator still stood beside its former contents.
“Can I play with this?” she asked.
Over the next few hours, it became a house, then a castle, then a cabin on a mountain, then a mountain itself, then a boat, then a treehouse, and finally something that she called a “creaturecrater” and refused to explain to her parents, solemnly informing them (with a giggle in her voice) that it was a secret.
For the next week, and all through the holiday break, she was the most popular child on the street, as all her friends filed through to play in the house, or on the mountain, or in the boat, or amidst the “creaturecrater.”
But this story isn’t about her, nor is it about her amazing big box. And it’s not about how she made a lot of fun for herself out of something ordinary, or about making the best of things. All those happened, but that’s not what this story is about.
This story is about the smiles on her parents’ faces as they held hands on the sofa and watched her play with the box. This story is about their fears that they could not give their daughter joy at Christmas – and how, instead, she gave theirs back to them.
I think we all can help those we love find joy at Christmas. Do you?
You do, too?
Then let’s do it.