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Keep the Faith: The Joy of Giving at Christmas

Guideposts’ Vice President of Ministries shares a treasured family memory of an early experience with Christmas giving.

Ty'Ann Brown, Guideposts' Vice President of Ministries; photo by Kennies Earl

I was eight years old that Christmas, and I wanted to get something special for my mom and my older sister, Tanya. We were living in an apartment in Spanish Harlem, in Manhattan, close enough to school that I could walk there with my friends—Tanya keeping an eye out for me—while Mom went to work.

Every year, I couldn’t wait for the holidays to arrive. We’d make a big batch of Orville Redenbacher popcorn and take out Mom’s sewing kit. We’d push needle and thread through each popped kernel, making a long string to loop around our Christmas tree. Whatever we didn’t hang on the tree branches, we popped into our mouths. Soon there would be a pile of presents under those branches, many of them for me.

Mom had confirmed my suspicions about Santa Claus long before, but now that I was getting older, I wanted to be able to give something back to her and Tanya. I didn’t have any money, of course. I couldn’t buy any of the nice things that I wished I could, but I wanted to give them a taste of what it felt like for me to open a present from them. After all, didn’t the Bible say it was better to give than receive?

One day, I came up with a plan. I snuck into Tanya’s closet and grabbed her favorite leather boots. When Mom wasn’t looking, I took a brandnew box of light bulbs out of the kitchen closet. I wrapped both presents in our prettiest Christmas paper, taping a card on top—just like Mom always did—by folding a square of leftover paper and signing it, “Love, Ty’Ann.” I carefully put the gifts under the tree.

Did I hope that Tanya and Mom would be surprised when they opened my presents to them on Christmas Eve? I wasn’t sure what they would think, but their smiles and laughter and heartfelt thanks were more than I could have imagined.

We all love to retell the story of that long-ago Christmas when I gave my mom and my sister things they already had. What they gave me in return was even more precious. The sheer joy of giving.

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