The true spirit of Christmas

December 7th, 2021 by Ken

I’ve had many Christmases in my eight decades of life.  Most of them pass with little memories.  A few stand out for various reasons.  And, one or two return to my mind every Christmas…  My most memorable  one came when I was 12 years old.  It led me on a path of which I had never conceived.

I was the oldest of four children.  My mother was a single mom living in Tumwater.  Mom worked a little, but having four kids made it tough.  There was no welfare as we know it now.  We did get some surplus food from the government – usually peanut butter, cheese and Spam – but money was always in short supply.

Mom told us all, that this was going to be a tough Christmas.  “We’re going to have an old-fashioned Christmas,” she said.  “We’re going to have to make things.  It’ll be fun.”

I wasn’t sure it would be fun.  This was going to be the worse Christmas of my young life.  But, I didn’t have any choice..

We lived above the Tumwater watershed property in a log cabin.  A nice log cabin, but a real log cabin.  We had trees galore in our backyard and my brother and I had no trouble finding the perfectly shaped tree to cut down and take back to the house.  We cut it to fit, placed it in an old bucket filled with dirt, and managed to get it into the house.

We had a few old ornaments laying around, but not really enough to decorate a Christmas tree.  Mom said “we’ll make our own.”  She remembered her childhood on an Iowa farm and the things they did to make Christmas come alive.  She showed us how to take colored paper and make it into reasonable ornaments.  We popped popcorn on the stove and using thread and a needle managed to make a white garland.  She brought  home a bucket of cranberries and we took them and  made a red garland.  We had a small puny string of lights, but once they were on the tree it became one of the best Christmas trees I’ve ever seen.

Early one evening just before Christmas, came a knock on the front door.  We opened it and found three people dressed in holiday attire and carrying several boxes, some of them wrapped as presents.  They were members of the Olympia Kiwanis Club and we had been selected as their Christmas family.  Each year the club adopted a needy family at Christmas and this year it was us,

I don’t know who was more excited – them or us.  They had presents mainly clothes but some toys as well.  Most of them were for my younger brothers and sister, but I did get a Monopoly game and a ring puzzle.  They also brought a box of food including a ham and all the fixings.

I was happy at the unexpected gift which came through our door.  My brothers and sisters were excited as they looked through all of the presents.

But, I was watching the faces of those Kiwanians as we opened our presents, tried on the jackets, looked through the food basket.  Their happiness in helping others brought joy to their heart that you could see by the smiles on their faces.

It was a better Christmas than I had expected, because for the first time in my young life I understood the true spirit of Christmas. Watching those Kiwanians I saw there is joy in giving as much as in receiving.

Now, every Christmas when we begin decorating the tree I remember that Christmas and I remember those who made one of my childhood Christmases a Christmas memory I cherish forever.

(A year later, the Olympia Lions Club went on to get me my first pair of glasses.  Later, I joined Rotary and am now a 47 year member of the Lacey Rotary Club.  Service clubs like Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary are the heartbeat of a community and I urge everyone to take a look at joining these great organizations.   (Why did I join Rotary if Kiwanis and Lions did so much for me in my childhood.  Because they asked me first.)


Posted in The Real News

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