The Gift of a Grateful Child
by Rhonda McKnight
Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. I know a lot of people complain about the bustle and expense, but I enjoy the lights and decorations, the food and the sales. More than anything, I love the giving to others; always have.
I work for a large human services agency. Many years ago I provided direct services to homeless clients. One year, when my oldest son was six years old, he gave me a very, very, long list for Santa Claus. It was upsetting to me, because every year I talked to him about the real meaning of Christmas. We even celebrated Jesus’ birthday by baking a cake, but based on the list I was looking at, my kid wasn’t getting it.
Earlier that day I had been talking with a client who told me that she’d missed the sign up for the county’s “Toys for Tots” giveaway. I felt horrible for her. She had a son my age. Coming home and seeing the list my child handed me, made me wonder about two things; the first was, how could I make a difference in my client’s situation and the second, how could I really teach my son to appreciate how good God has already been to him? The Lord gave me the answer to both situations. HE told me to have a toy drive.
I made a phone call to my pastor and asked if I could run the toy drive through our church. He of course thought it was an excellent idea. I formed a small committee of church members, and we announced the drive at service the following Sunday. Then I wrote a letter requesting donations and sent it by mail to many of the businesses and other churches in our small community. In less than three weeks, we collected almost two hundred toys. I purchased some wrapping paper and the weekend before Christmas my son, husband, a few committee members and I sat on our living room floor and wrapped and labeled every gift. We had a few families in the church and community that we were aware of that had needs for their children, but that left us with the majority of our gifts to still give away to the homeless.
On Christmas morning, after my son opened his presents and ate breakfast, we loaded our station wagon (remember those) with the packages, stopped by my girlfriend’s house for my godchildren (my other little elves), and went to four of the hotels in the community that housed the homeless clients. I said a prayer for our safety, and my elves and I knocked on every door, assessed the ages of the children and gave them gifts. Some already had toys, others had one or two and some had none. My kids were amazed at the number of children who had nothing. They dug deep into the Santa sack we were carrying reading the labels that said “truck” or “doll” or “board game”, looking for the perfect gift for each child until we emptied that station wagon three times. It took us most of the day, but what a blessing it was for them and for me. We had really given to the less fortunate, not just by dropping off a toy in a supermarket box, but with our own hands, using our own time.
We continued that tradition for a couple of years and then I moved out of state. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about those Christmas mornings. As I searched my memory for something meaningful to share, God reminded me of the toy drive years. My son is much older now, seventeen to be exact. For years I’ve had to ask him for his Christmas list, and it’s always very modest, more modest than it needs to be. God answered my prayers concerning him that Christmas. It was so much more than I ever asked for. I just wanted him to appreciate the things he had, but what I received from God was a truly grateful child, who also understands what it means to give to others.
Merry Christmas and Many Blessings,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhonda McKnight’s first novel, Secrets and Lies (Urban Christian Books) will make its debut December 2009. She serves as the president of the Visions in Print (V.I.P.), the southeast Atlanta chapter of the American Christian Writers. Rhonda is the owner of Legacy Editing, a free-lance editing service for fiction writers and Urban Christian Fiction Today , an Internet blog that highlights African American Christian fiction. She is also an online columnist for Urban Christian Fiction and guest blogs at various other sites.
When she’s not working on editing projects, teaching workshops about writing, or penning her next novel, she spends time with her family. Originally from a small coastal town in New Jersey, she’s called Atlanta, Georgia home for ten years.
You may learn more about Rhonda by visiting www.rhondamcknight.net.