As a teacher of mostly elementary grades, I have a treasured memory of the Christmas gift I received in 1983 from two students in the Williamsburg County country school in which I taught. This school was unique in several ways. First it housed elementary, middle and high school levels on one campus. The older students protected the younger ones and there were no behavior problems! It was a joy to teach there. The students were from very modest homes. In fact some children lived in homes without plumbing and missed days when they had to tote water for their mothers to do the laundry. Overall, they were very well-mannered and had a desire to learn.
I was teaching fifth grade there at the time and frequently welcomed two boys into my room when their teacher took the rest of her class out for recess. They were often behind in their work and remained in my room in hopes that they would make up for missed assignments. Some of my students attempted to tease and make fun of them in the beginning, but they soon found out that I would not tolerate these two boys being the brunt of their taunts. I tried to help them understand the concepts that were giving them problems and truly enjoyed their addition to my room although I felt sorry that they were being punished by losing recess. I wanted to include them and make them feel at home for the short time they spent with us almost daily. Little did I know the influence I was making.
The following year I received a blessing from them that I will never forget. It was the day before we let out for Christmas vacation and there was a knock at my door late that afternoon. When I opened the door, there stood the two boys who had passed many a recess in my room the previous year. They explained that they wanted to give me a Christmas gift and each placed a pencil and an orange in my hands. I knew that this was the gift their teacher had given them and I almost started to refuse it. I knew they had very little at home and this was their present. How could I accept it? Thankfully I realized in time that this would hurt their feelings and I accepted their precious gifts. They thanked me for my kindness to them the previous year and wished me a very Merry Christmas. I was choked up and wished them the same as best I could. When I closed the door and turned toward my class, they couldn’t understand why I was crying. I tried to explain but I don’t think I made much of an impression.
Their gift meant so very much to me. It reminds me now of the widow and the mite box, giving all she had. In the years that followed, I would read aloud to my students from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account of her Christmas memories and then share the story of the gifts these two boys had given me. Through them the Lord had blessed me with the true meaning of Christmas and His love for each of us who believe.