What I Learned At the Age of Seven
Just for a few moments, set the bills and problems aside, gaze into space and wallow in some nostalgic memories about some of your most memorable Christmas or Holiday events. Granted, they might not all be rosy, but surely you can drum up one or two. I’ve had some bumps and crashes in the road here and there– even one year muddling through the season with a tumble weed that bore all of four ornaments. But remember, good memories are good food for the soul…
Our family truly did travel “over the river and through the woods”… We would cross the Mississippi on our way to Grandmother’s house to spend part of the Holidays with relatives. We lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and Grandma lived just 70 miles northeast as the crow flies, in a farming community in Illinois. A day and an over-nighter at Grandma’s was one of the best parts of growing up. You know how those Grannies are– so loving and welcoming, full of hugs and affirming words, plenty of home-cooked food, filled cookie jars and feather beds you could get lost in. (I did have an ‘indifferent Granny’, but I won’t go there–that would burst the bubble.) Memories of my Good Granny are safely tucked away in a special little place in my heart.
My father had an interest in photography, and in the above shot, my mom and were instructed to pose in front of Grandma’s Christmas ‘tree’. An old-fashioned German feather tree; I thought it was the sorriest-looking specimen I had ever seen. Worthy of lots of snickering amongst my three older brothers and I– but not too much ridicule, because most likely, there was a present for us at the base of that ‘thing’. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree would beat this puppy hands down if it were in a contest for the most beautiful tree. So there we are, Mom pointing out the ‘star’ and me dutifully gazing at some sticks and feathers bravely passing itself off as a ‘tree’.
It was at Grandma’s little country church one Christmas, that I learned a sobering lesson. Seven years of age, decked out in a fancy dress, pretty coat, and patent leather shoes– an object of curiosity for the other children, not only because of being a visitor, but also because of my clothing. Not that we were anywhere near being ‘well-off’, but the other children were of very modest means–a polite way of saying ‘poor’. As young as I was, I could perceive the evidence of the daily struggles on the faces of their parents. Poor, but such good people! Honest, loving, friendly people .
The children could hardly contain their excitement… special Christmas surprise packages awaited them… At the end of the service, my two Uncles came to the front of the congregation, carrying boxes overflowing with individual paper sacks filled with goodies. As they handed a bag to each child–and my brothers and I received ours also– I opened mine and was completely dumbfounded–literally stunned into silence! Along with a small amount of multi-colored, hard, ‘ribbon candy’, was an apple and an orange… that was it. That’s it? The other children were filled with joy, smiles on their faces, proudly showing their ‘gifts’ to their parents. I couldn’t believe it! They were happy with this measly amount of hard candy and an apple and orange? This wasn’t anything to get excited about! I could have candy any day I wanted, and apples and oranges were nothing to get all worked up over by any stretch of my little, self-centered imagination.
But then, within seconds, and with as much comprehension as my age allowed, I realized, these gifts were huge for these children. I had plenty to eat, some pretty dresses, and most likely, possessed more toys than a family of these children put together had. I immediately felt humbled and ashamed, and thankfully, I had enough sense and training in manners to muster up some appreciation and say ‘Thank you” to my Uncles. In a moment, I understood how ungrateful I was for what I did have.
It’s an event in my life that made such an impression, I am still humbled when I recall that day. Granted, our family was not rich by any means, if anything, I was the poor one! I couldn’t even comprehend how much I had been given in life, let alone appreciate it. Those special little children… they were the rich ones. They had learned the joy of being thankful for little things–for anything!
Life is rough, especially this past year with folks losing jobs, and sometimes their home, but is there something you could be thankful for this season? Is there something or someone worthy of celebration? A milestone in your life, a success, a new family member, or simply that you had a roof over your head, food on the table, and good health. When life gets tough, it helps to focus on the small things, which in reality, might actually be the big things. Trials put our lives and wants vs needs into focus. The important stuff rises to the top, and the unnecessary and frivolous fall by the wayside. We come to see and appreciate what we have been given. It’s time to come together with family and friends to celebrate the gifts that have come your way this year…. they are there, you know.
And a heartfelt hope for a healthy, safe, and meaningful season to all…
Joy Richter 2011 ©copyright 2011 J.R.LIGGETT LTD