On this unusual Christmas Day, I’m sharing the story of a little boy who taught me that we can celebrate Christmas even in the midst of our troubles…
Isaac became my student because he needed help with reading. On our way to and from my classroom each day, we talked. It isn’t often that children have an adult to themselves and Isaac took full advantage of the situation. He told me about his mother’s debilitating illness and his father’s efforts to care for her and the children. Isaac told me about his older brother in the military and that he read from a little prayer-book every night. Just before winter break, Isaac shared something very special which remains with me today.
I’d purchased a small Christmas gift for each of my students. When I gave Isaac his package, his eyes became saucers. He examined the wrapping and the card. “Can I put this under my Christmas Tree?” he asked. I told him that he could do whatever he and his parents wanted him to do. It was his gift, after all. When Isaac came to school every day, he arrived clean, having had breakfast and ready to do his best. He also wore the same shirt and slacks for the week. Though Isaac didn’t enjoy any luxuries, his family was rich with love. When Isaac opened his book bag to store his gift, he announced, “I have something for you, too.”
Isaac took me completely by surprise. His dad was among the working poor and certainly couldn’t afford gifts for his children’s teachers. I understood when Isaac reached into his bag and pulled out a green two-headed dragon. I told Isaac that it was a great dragon, but that I would be very happy just knowing that he enjoyed playing with it. Still, Isaac persisted. “I was going to trade it for Poke’mon, but I want you to have it instead.” At the time, anything Poke’mon was a valued commodity. Isaac abandoned this plan to show his reading teacher how much he cared for her.
When I finally composed myself, I asked Isaac if his mom or dad would mind his leaving that toy with me. “Oh, no, Mrs. P. They would want me to give it to you. It’s for Christmas.” With that, Isaac and I made a prominent place on my bookshelf for that dragon. Afterward, I told Isaac he could take that dragon home anytime he wanted to. “Are you taking your present back?” he asked. “Never,” I told him. Isaac responded, “Neither am I.” I kept that two-headed dragon for more than a decade. After Isaac had been promoted from eighth grade and graduated high school, I gave it to another little boy who needed a taste of the love which filled Isaac’s heart.
God touched this world with selfless love that first Christmas. Jesus spent thirty-three years showing us how to share that love. Isaac’s parents had paid attention and they passed on what they learned to their son. Isaac paid attention and he passed on what he learned to me. Today, we pay attention as well. Now, it is up to us to pass on what we’ve learned as we tend lovingly to those we meet along the way. Merry Christmas!
©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved