My attitude toward Christmas was set in concrete through circumstances which were thrust upon me. It happened on a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks before Christmas in the late 1940s.
I was walking from my home to the movie theater in my hometown where I was going to attend the Saturday afternoon western movie. My weekly treks to the theater were very much a ritual with me. But something happened one block before I arrived at the theater.
A man in a black military-style uniform with red and gold trim approached me. He held out a tin can with a coin slot in the top and asked me if I would give something to the Salvation Army. He said it was to buy gifts and food for children who would not otherwise have any Christmas gifts or dinner.
I remember briefly handling the twenty-five-cent-piece which was in my pocket. There was nine cents for the movie, five cents for a box of popcorn and eleven cents to spend at the drugstore next to the theater after tha movie was over. With a little reluctance, I dropped my twenty-five cents into his can. But my story does not end there.
He then asked me if I would like to help collect money for the Salvation Army. With my twenty-five cents gone, I had nothing else to do. Besides, I was not expected at home for three hours, so I agreed to help.
My hometown only had a population of about 3000 people, so everybody knew everybody, meaning I was not the least bit shy about knocking on doors and asking people to donate.
At the end of the afternoon, I turned in my can and the money was counted. I had collected more money than any other volunteer. The man in the black uniform thanked me for my time and effort and handed me a US$5.00 bill which I later used for doing my Christmas shopping for my family.
Not a Christmas goes by without my remembering that very special Christmas in my childhood. The memory gives me a deep hunger to give as much as I can to help those not as blessed with this world’s goods as I have. And my giving is nothing noble on my part, but a privilege which comes with being blessed.
Nor is this a boast of my own generosity. It is a testimony to the family and friends who surrounded me as a boy who instilled a sense of responsibility in me. It is a testimony to those who were generous with me when I approached them about giving to the needy. And it is a testimony to the Salvation Army and other similar charities who step up and look out for the under-privileged when Christmastime rolls around.
Most of all, it is a testimony to the Christchild who grew up into the man who taught me that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.