Monday, December 27, 2004


It's just a small, white envelope stuck among
the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no
identification, no inscription. It has peeked
through the branches of our tree for the past
.10 years or so

It all began because my husband Mike hated
Christmas -- oh, not the true meaning of
Christmas, but the commercial aspects of
it -- overspending ... the frantic running
around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle
Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma -- the
gifts given in desperation because you couldn't
.think of anything else

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to
.bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so
forth I reached for something special just for
.Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was
wrestling at the junior level at the school he
attended; and shortly before Christmas,there was
a non-league match against a team sponsored by an
inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters
dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings
seemed to be the only thing holding them together
presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their
spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new
wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed
to see that the other team was wrestling without
headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to
protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the
.ragtag team obviously could not afford

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every
weight class. And as each of their boys got up
from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters
with false bravado, a kind of street pride that
couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside
me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of
them could have won," he said. "They have a lot
of potential, but losing like this could take the
".heart right out of them

Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them
having coached little league football, baseball
and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present
came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting
goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling
headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to
.the inner-city church

On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the
tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had
done and that this was his gift from me. His
smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that
.year and in succeeding years

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition -- one
year sending a group of mentally handicapped
youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check
to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned
to the ground the week before Christmas
.and on and on

.The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas
It was always the last thing opened on Christmas
morning and our children, ignoring their new
toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as
their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to
reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys
gave way to more practical presents, but the
.envelope never lost its allure

.The story doesn't end there

.You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer
When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped
in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas
Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in
the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our
children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an
.envelope on the tree for their dad

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even
further with our grandchildren standing around the
tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their
.fathers take down the envelope

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always
be with us. May we all remember Jesus -- who is the
reason for the season, who gave us the greatest
example of giving -- and strive to follow His
.example this year

Submitted By _

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