It’s cliche to say that to give is better than to receive, and many children are reminded of this fact by haggard parents around Christmastime. And those who have received in times of need are particularly aware of their blessings.
Ashlee Boyson is a mother and wife whose childhood was like that of many others who experienced financial hardship at some point.
She was raised by a single mother who did her best to make Christmas magical, but it was no easy task to come up with the funds for Christmas fits.
Recently, Boyson shared a story about a Christmas in the past that helped shape her future sneaky gift-giving.
She was around 11 at the time, and her mom came to her and asked her for a favor. Money was tight, and Boyson’s mother wanted to prepare her daughter for the fact that there wouldn’t be many presents.
“I need your help, the only thing I was able to purchase for you was a nail polish, and this year I need you to be ok with that,” her mom told her, according to what Boyson posted on Facebook.
Her thoughts immediately went to her younger sisters, who were five and seven years younger than she was. She turned her focus on them and their starry-eyed Christmas expectations, and asked a favor back.
“Do not buy me another thing, if you have any money left get something for the little girls,” she remembers saying.
Christmas came, and the pile of presents was small. Boyson got one small item, and her sisters only got a few as well — but the worst part was how broken her mother was over it all.
“It was hard to breathe as I choked back tears,” Boyson said. “I wasn’t sad about the presents, but it killed me to watch my mother go around trying to smile — I could see it all over her face … she felt like she had failed us.”
But someone else had been watching out for them. Someone else had known or guessed at their situation, and shortly afterward there was a knock at the door.
The family opened the door to a very unexpected sight: a small tree made of dollar bills, tied up with ribbons.
“I looked up to see my mother’s face — it was wet from tears — as she watched us count what felt like a million dollars,” Boyson continued. “We felt rich that Christmas — rich in blessings, rich in dollars, and rich in love. Someone loved us enough to know that year … we just needed a tiny sprout of hope, not in a little jolly man in a red suit, but in Christ. They were His hands that day. Angels that dropped off a tiny reminder in that tiny duplex: we were not forgotten.”
Years later, when her mother remarried and Boyson and her sisters became three of 12 kids, the family decided to be Jesus’ hands and feet.
“This year we want to do Christmas a little differently, we want to give our presents to a family who needs it,” her parents told the kids. “We will give you a budget and assign you partners to shop for each of their children and we will drop everything off at their house on Christmas Eve. Our goal is to make sure they have no idea where it came from. It will be really fun, the only catch is: we won’t be buying anything for any of you.”
Boyson, wanting to do the best job possible, visited their unsuspecting recipient family under the guise of doing a “research questionnaire for school,” in order to find out exactly what sorts of things the family would want.
The kids worked at their tasks, and by Christmas Eve everything was set. They sneaked out and got the beautifully wrapped presents all arranged on the family’s porch, and Boyson got to ring the doorbell and then run.
Boyson and her family found a nearby vantage point, as she wanted to see the reaction, and what she saw has stayed with her.
“And there on the porch were all the presents, along with a mother weeping so hard she couldn’t even bend over to pick up one box,” Boyson wrote. “I could hear her sobs, I could feel of the gratitude she felt, but I also could remember a moment when my own mother had cried those same tears — and I felt joy.”
“Heaven is close, there are angels all around us — some we can see, and others we can only feel,” she continued. “This Christmas let us always remember the miracles — we even have the power to create some. Three wise men followed a star to bring their love to a little baby far away.”
“Most of the time we don’t have to look or travel too far to find someone who needs to be reminded that they are loved — a little glimmer of light can help us remember we are not forgotten.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.