Alicia was my first experience in real Christmas giving, the kind that involved the whole family and money. One hundred dollars- a fortune for a preschool teacher back in the late 80’s. It was a Christmas gift that changed my family. They didn’t know Alicia, although I often talked about the children in my preschool class.
Alicia came into my class with issues; she had spent much of her first year of life in a baby seat. Her mother had special needs and never knew that holding a baby, talking with a child, and letting a baby play on the floor were important to a child’s growth. Never mind reading-aloud or playing with toys- those activities were far away from Alicia’s world.
Her mom had a big heart. She really wanted to do what was best for her child. I spent as much time helping her as I did loving and teaching Alicia. I remember one of our first times together. My class was learning about the Olympics (it must have been an Olympic year), making medals and ribbons, torches, and doing some Olympic running and jumping events. Mom was so proud to tell me that she participated in the Special Olympics when she was a girl. She actually met Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder, and brought old photos to school to show all the children.
Alicia loved school. She was growing and learning. Her classmates helped her to do little things, like put on her coat or find her shoes. Christmas was rolling around and children were talking about Santa Claus and what they hoped he would bring. Alicia wanted a doll and a baby carriage. I often told parents on the sly what their children wanted. I felt like Santa’s Helper.
I told Alicia’s mother about the doll and the carriage. She was uncomfortable and she had to tell me that there was little money for Christmas, and Alicia’s dreams were out of the question. That was that. And, please don’t encourage those ideas. I understood; I was having a hard time that year figuring out Christmas for our children. My husband was in between jobs, and my small paycheck had to go for necessities.
My head absolutely understood, but my heart kept creeping in, like a tiny mouse finding his way out of the cold. That night at dinner I called a meeting with the family. Family dinners were an important time together every evening. I told them about Alicia’s Christmas, or lack of Santa Claus. Our children were in elementary school, barely out of the believing years themselves.
“If you give up most of your Santa Clause toys this year, then Alicia can have a Christmas. You will still get toys, but it won’t be much.”
I never imagined asking my own young children to do such a thing. And, I never imagined that they would say “yes.” To make this fun, we all went shopping together for the doll and carriage. We decided to invite Alicia and her mom over on Christmas day, then we would surprise her with the toys. My children thought we should tell Alicia that Santa dropped off the toys at our house by mistake. Everyone loved that idea. It was all arranged.
On Christmas morning, my children were delighted with their slightly sparse gifts. It wasn’t so bad. They knew that the best was yet to come, and it did! Alicia and her mom arrived. We drank cocoa and ate cookies together. On a cue, perhaps it was a wink or a nod, we told Alicia that Santa Clause had mistakenly delivered her toys to our house.
Then we watched Alicia open the doll. She had no words, and neither did we. She lovingly stroked her hair and hugged her. She rocked her back and forth. My children fought back tears. Somehow they understood, this is as good as it gets. I’m sure I told them a million times that it is better to give than to receive. At last they knew. That act of giving was fundamental in shaping their character. Their hearts grew at least three times. And Alicia? She thrived in my classroom and got some extra TLC from Jennie. She saw me recently, threw her arms around me, and had the same smile she wore when she opened her doll.
Oh Jennie…you outdid yourself yet again! Love this story of the true spirit of Christmas! Miss you!
amazing…so touching. so hopeful that i can instill in my three little ones the spirit of giving and blessing others
Thank you, Larissa. Mine were elementary school before this happened. It really hit home. Merry Christmas!
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Thank you so much!
What a sweet story. You raised good children. I am most proud of my children’s large hearts. Nothing else matters. It helps when they learn early. It’s the little things we do that make the greatest impact on the world. That generosity can be passed down for generations.
Thank you, Maureen. You are so right about everything. Doing the right thing with the little things creates big hearts, and that makes an impact on the world with kindness and generosity. It is passed down, and I think it has a domino effect. Good creates more good. Merry Christmas to you!
Merry Christmas to you and yours as well, Jennie. Hugs, Marlene
Thank you, Marlene. A hundred apologies for typing Maureen…
No problem. You have no idea how often that happens. 😉 It starts with an M and I answer to it. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this heart warming story, Jennie. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
You are welcome, Susan. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Heartwarming and a real lesson in the meaning of Christmas.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
Thank you, and Merry Christmas!
Jennie, a wonderful, touching story just perfect for the Season. Thank you for sharing this and the best to you and yours this Holiday! Bruce
Thank you, Bruce. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Funny thing ~ I thought this would be the best thing for Alicia. I had no idea how it would shape the lives of my children. Merry Christmas to you and your family 🎄and… Go Patriots! 🙂
All of the above…plus: what a blessing to meet Alicia again as a grown woman…
Enjoy your school ‘vacation’ 🙂
Thank you, Laura. Merry Christmas! 🌲
Awww, the best story would make a perfect book. The kind which becomes a classic because it comes from the heart ❤ and is Truly Special, Jennie! xo
Merry Christmas to you and your loving children and husband who helped Alicia have her Christmas Wish come true!
That is so nice, Robin. Merry Christmas to you!
Back when people still came to Christmas parties, we used to gather toys for kids form all our guests. Everyone was always excited about a child getting ‘their’ gift. Giving really is the best. 🙂
Yes, it is! 🎄
This made me weepy — what a wonderful, extra/ordinary story!
I’m glad you enjoyed it~ tears can be a good thing. Merry Christmas to you! 🎄
Wonderful story. Yes, giving us its own reward.
Thank you, Steve. Merry Christmas!
Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
This is a wonderful post!
Thank you, Charles!
Wonderful, thank you for sharing, this just reaffirms the belief in Goodness in Life. Regards and Best wishes for the coming year .
You are welcome! Best to you.
Your story is as good as it gets — WD —
I love this. The true Christmas spirit.
What a wonderful lesson–for them, for you…and for us.
Thank you for your kind words, Mitch!
Jennie, what a beautiful and inspiring true story for everyone this Christmas and always. Not only are you a wonderful teacher but an extraordinary mom too! 🙂
Karen, your words are greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Reblogged this on Pen and Paper and commented:
A beautiful and inspiring true story from A Teacher’s Reflections and as the title reveals, “The Real Meaning of Christmas Giving.”
Thank you so much for reblogging this. story, Karen!
So heartwarming! That’s terrific!
Thank you, Nikki!
Really a beautiful story 🙂
Thank you, Irene!
What a wonderful story. Such great memories for Alicia as well as for your own family.
Thank you, Marcia!
This was a very heartwarming story and a very special gift from your family.
Thank you, Dan!
Jennie, I am so touched. I don’t know what to say. Thank you from my heart to yours. Truly.
Wishing you and your family a blessed year full of joy for 2017 and beyond!
Love, Debbie 🙂
Thank you for your kind words, Debbie! May you joy and peace in the new year.