The best gifts simply cannot be wrapped

Kamloops This Week shares some true Christmas stories

Kamloops This Week

Earlier in the season, we asked our readers to send us their Christmas stories and we received several requests to reprint one from a few years back.

At first we declined, but more requests have come in.

Here it is in full:

Today we bring you a true story to illustrate you can not only reduce your stress, but a Christmas done well can relieve stress in others, too.

This is how the story was told to us:

“When I was a kid, my family was poor.

“Being poor as a child meant Christmas had more feelings of dread than anticipation but, in our family, my dad would not let us dwell on money.  Every year, we came up with a new way to give something to neighbours or another poor family in an anonymous way.

“When I was 10, Christmas fell on Sunday, so we got dressed, grabbed shovels and cleared snow from steps and sidewalks of houses and the church long before daylight.

“We laughed and threw shovelfuls of powdery snow at each other and were long gone before anyone knew we were there.

“At that time, I had never been in a church in my life, but I knew our work would be appreciated!

“I was not looking forward to going back to school after the holidays because, on the first school day after the holidays, we had to stand up and tell the class what we got for Christmas.

“I made up imaginary presents to prevent laughter I was sure would come my way if I said I got socks or second-hand skates.

“The dreaded day arrived and I contemplated pretending to be sick — just to avoid that first morning of that first day back.

“I knew it would be hard to fool my dad and, when the time came, I chickened out and headed off to school.

“My teacher, Miss Beaman, was there as usual to greet us when we came into class.

“I loved her. She had a smile that could light up the room and, when she praised our efforts, it was like music that played in our minds through the whole day — and, for some of us, our whole life.

“On that day, when I needed it most, she smiled at my greeting even more warmly than I had ever seen before.

“We waited impatiently and, in my case, with dread, for our Christmas treasures to be revealed, only to have Miss Beaman announce we were not going to tell the class what we got for Christmas. We were going to tell what we did or gave to someone else because, after all, Christmas means giving and not receiving.

“We were all dumbfounded and many protested, but Miss Beaman was firm: What did we give to, or do for, others this Christmas?

“One by one, my classmates stammered and struggled to say or even think of something.

“She called my name last and I told the class my family shovelled sidewalks on Christmas morning so others could rest and spend time with their families.

“Miss Beaman moved behind me, gently rested her hands on my shoulders and said, ‘This is what Christmas is really all about. We get something more when we give of ourselves than we ever hope to get in a present.’

“For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged in a group as an equal and my eyes welled.

“Years later, I was walking down the street in front of that same church and happened to glance across the street at the big old house that stood on the opposite corner — and then it struck me.

“That house was where Miss Beaman paid for room and board during the school months. She must have seen my family shovelling snow so early on that Christmas morning all those years ago.

“It was only then that I fully understood the gifts she had anonymously given to me that Christmas: Dignity, compassion and elevation from the depths I was so wrong to feel.

“And with realization came her last gift, the understanding that my worth as a person derived not from what I got or had, but from what I gave.

“Even if Miss Beaman was alive, how can you thank a teacher for the gift of these lessons? I guess all you can ever do is help others find their true worth, too.”