The shy, freckled-face little boy grew up like most kids with the attitude that Christmas was all about acquiring as many presents as possible. If the tree didn’t harbour more than 10 neatly wrapped gifts with his name on it he was disappointed . . . dejected, actually. And if his “spoiled” sister got one more than he did, he would surely complain to his mother. 

One Christmas morning he counted 25 presents that had his name on it. His father made a good living installing high-rise windows in Toronto, so the family was doing well financially.

The boy still recalls one of the gifts he tore open like a crazed Tasmanian devil; it was an electric football field that moved the players around by vibration. It was fun watching the player with the ball find an opening to score a touchdown. He played it a few times but then lost interest.

The boy was furious one year when his sister crept downstairs on Christmas Eve and opened up everyone’s present; not a single one had wrapping paper left on it. Another year his Uncle Tommy (with his missing thumb) was invited to stay for the holidays. That turned out to be the disaster of the century since Tommy, full of whiskey, got up in the middle of the night to relieve himself and inadvertently tripped over his nephew’s Formula 1 racing set, which was smashed to pieces. The boy cried and moaned the entire day. 

Like pages in the wind, the years raced by. The economy lost its robustness, paving the way for leaner times. Survival became more of a struggle for families whose incomes dwindled, resulting in smaller budgets and fewer gifts under the tree.

The freckled-face boy grew up, got married and became a father of two children. Life was good in a small town until he lost his job. Unlike his father, he couldn’t afford to buy his daughters a lot of presents, although the three or four he did manage to purchase were nicely wrapped, and his home-made Christmas cards were unique and heart-felt. 

After all these years he was starting to realize the true meaning of Christmas, and he wondered why it took him so long to do so. Then, just a few days before December 25, there was a knock at the door. It was a wealthy couple they knew who were delivering Christmas hampers to people in need. Their arms were full of two large baskets laden with food. He told the duo there must have been a mistake, urging them to give the hampers to another family in town who were far less fortunate than he was. But it was no mistake; someone had heard about him losing his job and recommended his family for the Christmas hamper program. On the urging of his wife, he swallowed his pride and accepted the kind offering. 

It was truly the season of giving, so that Christmas he donated a brand new toy fire engine to the local hospital where one sick little boy would cherish it over the holidays.

Lyonel Doherty, editor