The Christmas Store

I have always thought that gifts should be accompanied by a video of the shopping trip on which the gift was purchased. This has been especially true when my young children have shopped with one parent for the other – and in particular my daughter shopping with my husband for me. It would be a videographer’s delight; eye-rolling and dramatic exclamations, “Oh no, not that, Dad! That’s for old ladies. Mom would never wear that.” But also the excitement when they see that thing they know is perfect for him or her. “He is going to love this! I can’t wait to watch him open this!” Sometimes the anticipation is so great they don’t wait, bursting in the house with, “Guess what we got you for Christmas?”But if you could be the proverbial fly on the wall and witness the conspiratorial whispers and the delight of discovering the just rightness of a gift, it would magnify the magic of the moment.

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Most of us have almost learned this as we become adults. I was just bemoaning the fact that I was being a terrible shopper this year, and my son replied with this text: “Nah, I think the older we get the less important it becomes to us material-wise. At least for me. I never understood how or why you guys could say you didn’t want anything for Christmas, but now it is more difficult for me to think of something I want than it is scary to imagine getting nothing. Which is to say you rock and played Santa wonderfully well for many years and we all appreciate you enough to know that as adults the best things in life aren’t things.”

He has a son who is now 3 and definitely sees life differently as a father.

I know things aren’t all that important, and I struggle with the consumerism of Christmas, but I do enjoy choosing gifts for people I love. It gives you a moment to focus on the individual characteristics of that person in your life, to celebrate the things that make him or her special and to appreciate the unique role that person plays in your life. That has become a big part of the season’s joy for me. Giving gifts makes me happy.

The past two weeks I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on some families who were doing just that for their children, and it was pure joy.

First Baptist Church, in its service to Abilene families through GLO daycare, CityLight – an outreach to the working poor and homeless -- and a longstanding partnership with Martinez Elementary, has each Christmas helped folks in the traditional way; buying and delivering requested gifts to referred families. This year, FBC revamped its Christmas contributions and with members’ donations of brand new toys and literally thousands of dollars, transformed the CityLight meeting room into a well-stocked toy store, playing host to the magic of the holiday season. And as a partner, we got to participate. We were also able to connect our generous sponsor, Hendrick Health System, to the Christmas store as well.

So, rather than the philanthropic church folks’ hearts being warmed by the smiles of delight on the cherubic faces of Christmas children, the hearts of Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa will be. And the joy began among the shelves of a makeshift showroom on Hickory Street. I don’t think the bustling shoppers perusing the aisles of FAO Schwarz could outdo the merriment of the shoppers on Hickory.

My favorites were the fathers shopping for their young ones. I guess because the care and tenderness of fathers often gets overlooked these days. The couples shopping together were a close second, because there were gasps and laughter and talk about the merits of their selections – and each of their children – and how or why he or she would love the purchase.

The joy and relief of finding gifts and being able to purchase them for their kids filled the showroom and spilled into the city streets as we loaded their bundles into their cars, and I imagine followed them all the way home. I know it has followed me for days.