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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Giant Christmas Stocking

I was on the verge of tears, I didn't know what to do.  It was the week before Christmas and we were out of money.  It was 1983, the country was in a recession and we had no way to put food on the table, let alone buy Christmas presents for our three little children, ages 4, 2 and 1 month.

I was in the Coast Guard Reserve at this time.  I had submitted application after application requesting transfer to active duty and all had been turned down, there were no openings.  My civilian job was in jeopardy, the company was in serious trouble, facing bankruptcy and as a result, my hours had been cut to just 15 to 20 a week.  My last paycheck had bounced.  Searching for other employment had been an exercise in futility.

At the fast food restaurant up the street, all decorated for Christmas, was the Giant Christmas Stocking, perched behind the counter.  It was eight feet tall and was filled with all kinds of toys and games.  A box was placed on the counter to put entries for the contest to win the stocking.

Marti and I looked longingly at that stocking, hoping beyond all hope that we could win it.  Then we'd have gifts for our kids for Christmas.  We carefully filled out our entry, stuffed it in the box and kept our fingers crossed that we'd get the good news that the stocking was ours.

It was not to be, someone else won the stocking.  Our Christmas hopes were dashed.

A few days before Christmas, our doorbell rang.  I opened the door to see the pastor of our church.  He knew that we were in a bad spot for Christmas.  In his arms was the Giant Christmas Stocking!  To our amazement, he told us that someone in our church had, on a whim, entered the contest to win the Giant Christmas Stocking and won it.  Because they had no children, they called the pastor and asked him if he knew of anyone that could use the stocking.  He said he did and brought us the stocking.  We had Christmas presents for our kids!

The story doesn't end there.  A couple of hours later, Santa Claus rolled up to our house on a firetruck and dropped off more toys for our kids and a bunch of gift coupons for food from the local food market down the street.  We didn't know that the fire department collected toys and gift coupons for families in need at Christmas time.  Someone told them about us.  Later that evening, one of my brothers showed up at my door and gave me a gift of $300, he knew we needed help.

The next day, we went to the market and bought food and the fixings for our Christmas dinner.  Using some money from my brother's gift, we put gas in our car and drove to the exchange at nearby West Point, buying wrapping paper, diapers, a few more age appropriate toys and some new clothes for the kids.

Christmas 1983, which appeared to be so hopeless for our family turned out to be the most wonderful Christmas we ever had.  The generosity of other people, some known to us, others we didn't know, reached out and helped us when we really needed it.  I still have to blink back tears just thinking about it.

I've told this story to our kids over and over again and this experience has turned into a mission for Marti and I.  We have been blessed over the years with good fortune, but we've never forgotten what it felt like to be in a seemingly helpless situation.  To this day, we keep our eyes and ears pealed for others that have hit a bump in the road of life and work out some way to help them, always anonymously.  It's a gift we give ourselves, the joy of helping others.

May this Christmas season bring much joy and happiness to you and your families as you gather together and exchange gifts, love and joy. 

Most importantly, never forget the real meaning of Christmas.


May every road you travel
bring you safely home
to the wonder of Christmas,
to the warmth of God's love

21 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas from our family to yours. Thanks for sharing your memory of that Christmas, and reminding us all what Christmas should really be all about.

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  2. What a nice Christmas story. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas.

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  3. I read this with tears streaming down my cheeks remembering the same Christmas. The economy took our business from us. We were in the same boat as you and with the same results. God is so good. We just need to be sensitive to his directions! May your Christmas be Blessed!

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  4. What an uplifting story ... and a great example of what the season is all about. Thanks for sharing something that is so personal.

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  5. oh wow what a story !! Rick and I just read it and we both had tears running down our faces...God is so good...everyone needs to remember the reason for the season...hugs to you both

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  6. Now you've done it. You made me cry. Very touching story.

    All things happen for a reason :)

    Merry Christmas!

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  7. What a wonderful Christmas memory... thanks for sharing!

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  8. What a wonderful Christmas memory... thanks for sharing!

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  9. Your Christmas story really touched me. I felt what you went through in 1983 through your words. There is so much abundance on this earth and for this I am most grateful. I'm so happy to know you and your family through your blog. Merry Christmas!

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  10. Paul and Marti, thank you for sharing your “Christmas Story”. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    John and Ellen
    connectedtothevinephotography.blogspot.com

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  11. What a great story...thank you for sharing! God has blessed all of us in many ways. Merry Christmas!!

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  12. Merry Christmas to you and Marti..may this Christmas be filled with many special memories..your first one on the road!!..enjoy your time with the granddaughters!!..
    thanks for sharing your special story..it is the random acts of kindess that make Christmas so wonderful!!

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  13. We had a Christmas much like that as well, we didn't have the help like you did but we still made it though. I have volunteered with the Salvation Army helping sort Christmas gifts and with a mother's group we helped out a family with gifts and a food hamper. Sure makes the heart feel good to do something like that. That's what Christmas is about, helping others!

    Merry Christmas!

    Kevin and Ruth
    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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  14. You obviously know the true meaning of Christmas as you have "passed it on". That's the important part.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story and giving a first-hand example of the true meaning of Christmas. God is good!

    Merry Christmas!

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  16. What a loving story of kindness and good-heartedness. People are good!

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  17. Thanks for sharing your touching story. God has such a wonderful way of teaching us.

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  18. What a wonderful heart warming story. Those were tough times for us as well. Luckily at that moment we were school teachers and so although we had small paychecks, they were not in danger of disappearing. And we had planted and harvested and put up plenty of food for the winter from our garden. Our daughter was small enough to be thrilled with a doll and a home made indoor play house. What strong memories those tough times are. They cause us all to pull together. Merry Christmas - a little after the fact to your entire family. Too bad every day can't be Christmas.

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  19. An amazing story - thanks for sharing. And I'm glad you had a wonderful first Christmas on the fulltime road.

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  20. Such a great story to tell... and make us thankful for what do have, and offer to share with others when we can. Bless you!

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard
    http://kareninthewoods-kareninthewoods.blogspot.com/

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  21. WOW! I just realized I missed this post. What a wonderful post. There are some really good people in this world. It's too bad the news doesn't cover them instead of the others.

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