Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Christmas Do-Over

He was crying as he came through the door. Not just crying. Wailing uncontrollably. His sister said he had cried on the school bus all the way home. It took me some time to sort things out.

It was "Secret Santa" day at school. It was a day when donated items were sold for one dollar each to give little kids a chance to purchase cheap Christmas gifts for their families. He had left home that morning with three dollars in his wallet. Enough for one gift each for his sister, his mommy and his daddy. He had been talking about it all week.

But when the teacher announced that it was time to go to Secret Santa, he was in the restroom and didn't hear it. No one at his table bothered to participate, so he didn't even realize anyone was gone from the classroom. Then suddenly, to a six-year-old boy who really has no concept of time, the day was over. It was time to get on the bus, and he realized he had somehow missed Secret Santa. His world came crashing down.

No, it would not be important to most people. But it was the most important thing in the world to him. And I was reminded of a vow I made to myself several times when I was a child and I was ignored by adults because I was "just a kid." I will never forget what it's like to be a kid.

I must have told myself this a dozen times before I was ten years old.

"Don't worry about it. It's not important. You're just a kid."

I will never forget what it's like to be a kid.

"Don't bother me now, I'm busy."

I will never forget what it's like to be a kid.

"You don't know what the real world is like. You're just a kid."

I will never forget what it's like to be a kid.

There are times when even a small child must be allowed to suffer for his mistakes. A mistake created by his own carelessness or maliciousness would be one to suffer for. But what lesson would be learned here? I know what I would have learned.

"Have all good intentions of doing something nice for someone else and get screwed anyway, just because that's how things work out sometimes." My only conclusion, therefore, would have been: "Well, then, there's no point in trying to be nice to others anyway." Dropping the "you're only a kid" bomb on him would have certainly been the first introduction of cynicism to an innocent, good-hearted boy. A boy who once found some sunglasses that he decided were "motorcycle glasses" and tried to give them to the first biker he saw. A boy who once shared his lunch with a friend who had forgotten to bring his.

Yes, there are times when even a small child must be allowed to suffer for his mistakes, but this wasn't one of them. This time he gets to learn that sometimes there will be someone to help you stand back up, help you dust yourself off, and help you get another shot.

So last night we went to a local store, where the items cost more than one dollar each but were worth it to restore his faith in doing goodwill. So my gift won't be a surprise, and he wasn't able to get me a coffee mug with a snowman on it as he had planned. But still, the world was right again, and Christmas was saved for my son. My son, who is smaller than I but has a much bigger heart, and who reminded me of the the vow I made to myself many years ago.

6 comments:

  1. Man, Why you gotta make me cry like that just before a football game?

    Well played, sir. And thanks for telling it.

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  2. Thanks, indeed...that was beautiful...

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  3. I also heard that line growing up. I also know what you did was right and noble. You taught your son an awesome lesson. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. You rock. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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