It’s Not What You Get, It’s What You Give
By Greg Quinn
I remember as a kid the excitement that came with Christmas. Some of my earliest Christmas memories are in the early 60’s when, as a small boy, I would anxiously await Santa Claus. My brother Jeff and I lived with our parents in a small country house near the family farm that Jeff lives on today. We didn’t have many luxuries, no indoor plumbing, only a fireplace for heat, no air conditioning, no TV, little insulation, etc. In today’s world we’d been considered poor. Those days we were just the same as all our neighbors. “God always provides what we need”, said Mom and Dad, and we believed it. I remember how we’d go to bed early but often sneak up in a futile attempt to catch a peek of Santa. I remember putting together the list of what we wanted, leaving cookies and milk for Santa at night, and listening with all our might to hear sleigh bells and the “Ho-ho-ho” of Santa. I remember the excitement of waiting for the morning when we’d wake up and see the toys that Santa left for us. And the rush of activity as we tore into our presents and recognized how Santa had come through for us again. Ahh, it was so blessed to receive!
I remember especially one Christmas when we were young. I was probably 7 years old, Jeff was around 5, and Boge was probably 2. Anthony wasn’t born yet. The 4-room farmhouse was warm, although it was very cold and snowing outside. We went to bed that Christmas with as much anticipation as a child could muster, because that year my request of Santa only included one thing, but an oh-so-special one thing. That one thing was “Big Lou”. Big Lou was a plastic robot measuring the height of a normal 7-year-old boy. Lou had rocket launchers for feet, eyes that lit up and blinked, one hand as a claw and the other that was a bazooka. Lou spoke alien language. Big Lou was a menacing looking creature. Lou’s belly button was a squirt gun. Lou rolled around on the floor as pushed from behind. Big Lou was absolutely the finest toy ever made. The only thing that came close was the Red Rider carbine action BB gun, but that’s the topic of another story. Big Lou was the pinnacle of a young boy’s dream. And, I was in hopes that Santa heard my plea, and that Big Lou would be mine.
I don’t remember if it was Jeff or I that awoke first, but we couldn’t have been minutes apart. We were in one room of the 4-room house, our parents’ bedroom was another room, the kitchen was another, and the living room the 4th. We rushed to the living room through the Kitchen and witnessed a few presents under the tree, but most were in 2 other corners of the room. Santa must have known about last year’s confusion, so, being the smart guy that he was, this year he left the presents for the three boys in separate areas. I ran to the first pile and it was marked “Jeff”. I ran to the second group of presents, and it was marked “Jimmy” (later known as Boge, but Santa always called him by his real name). I thought I missed something, so I ran to the groups again. “Jeff” was one, and “Jimmy” was the other. I looked under the tree, and there were only a few presents labeled “Mom”, “Dad”, “Mama Kent”, etc. How could it have happened?! Santa forgot me! No Big Lou. No bag of apples and oranges. No nothing!
By this time Mom and Dad had joined the confusion, and recognizing my despair, informed me that Santa ran out of corners in that room and had left some presents in their bedroom. As I whirled around the doorway, a sight struck me that I will never forget. In the far corner, looking right at me, was my new best friend, “Big Lou”.
The rest of the Christmas was great. I terrorized my brothers with Big Lou that year, and several following. Many days went by where Jeff, Boge, or Anthony would fear the wrath of Big Lou. That Christmas was special in many ways. A childhood dream coming true. A new friend. My first opportunity in advanced technology. The simplicity of happiness through the receipt of that special gift. That year, it certainly was very blessed to receive.
We later moved off that small farmhouse and into a larger home. My little brother Anthony came along. Santa had more to deliver. We had more to receive. While the years came and went and Santa always came through, I never will forget that Christmas with Big Lou.
I later recognized that Santa was really Dad, and Mrs. Claus was really Mom. The elves were employed by Mattel, Hasbro, or other toy companies in large cities, not the North Pole. I found out that Dad didn’t get much sleep from putting together toys late at night. I discovered that Mom and Dad worked hard and saved money all year in order to allow Santa to do his thing. I later found out the blessings that come from time with family more than the gifts received. And a few years later I discovered the most important gift of all, the gift of God’s son Jesus, given to all of us to save us from our sins. One day as a 13-year-old boy, I freely accepted this gift from Jesus, and that day inherited a gift I haven’t yet opened, and that is the promise of eternal life and a permanent home in Heaven.
The year of Big Lou has been some 43 years ago. I’m now 50 and have seen many Christmases come and go. I still enjoy the lights, the sounds, the smells of Christmas. I still share fond memories with my brothers and parents. I miss my Grandparents and special Aunts and Uncles that have gone on to Heaven before us. I have seen my own son enjoy numerous Christmases, and now as a young man of 24, recognize that he will one day have the opportunity to be Santa to his kids, just as I was to mine, and my parents before me. I still enjoy getting and opening gifts, and am thankful for all the Lord had given me. But things have changed now. It is not nearly as important to receive as it is to give.
Today, my thrills at this time of year come from seeing the light in another small child’s eye as he or she unwraps the Christmas present. Or seeing the smile from an aged face as a gift is presented. Or hearing the laughter of children in getting their gifts. I enjoy giving much more than getting.
I get much more than I give. I give a present that is bought from a store and carefully wrapped, but what I get in return is warmth in my heart and happiness in my soul. I give money to church recognizing that this gift will purchase necessities for families that have little; what I get in return is of much greater value than the ham or turkey the money provides. I give to organizations that do great works in helping those less fortunate, especially children, and even though I never see the money at work, I see in my minds eye the children getting the gifts, and that imaginary vision to me is of much more value than the money that purchased the gifts. I believe in giving. I believe everything the Bible says, even when it states that it is “more blessed to give than to receive”. What is discovered through this scripture is the fact that those who give do receive, and the gift they receive by giving is of much greater worth than any gift given.
What have I learned is the greatest Christmas gift? The greatest gift ever given is the gift of eternal life through a holy God by the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. This gift is freely offered to all mankind and, once received, delivers eternal life, happiness, and joy unspeakable. So there is no way that I or any other human can give anything nearly as significant as this gift. What can we give that holds great importance?
The greatest Christmas gift that any of us can give to another is the gift of love. This gift doesn’t cost money. This gift can be given by the richest of the rich, or the poorest of the poor. This gift can consist of things or of time. This gift can be as simple as a smile, or as big as a house. A kindly touch. An encouraging word. A smile. An act of love. The greatest gift we can give is to share Jesus with another, and share what He can do in the life of another human being. The gift of love. The gift of hope.
What do I want for Christmas this year? I honestly want to have the opportunity to give more. I’ve discovered the secret. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.
This year, don’t be overly concerned with what you receive. Pay attention to what you give. Because what you give actually determines what you will receive. And the gifts given to those who are faithful to God through giving to others are infinitely more important than anything we can give here on earth.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. Give a lot this Christmas. And what you’ll get in return will be great.