Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Small Things

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  So Charles Dickens began his classic, A Tale of Two Cities.  The novel contrasted the turmoil of the French Revolution going on in Paris with the relative calm of London in the late 1700’s.
We have all gone through what we might consider our best times as well as some unpleasant “worst times”.  But is it possible that, like me, you had your worst times and your best times simultaneously, and didn’t even know it?  It can happen.
Before our children were born, my wife and I made a decision that she would stay home with them instead of working.  It was a difficult choice financially because she brought in 60% of the household income at the time.  And as our two sons arrived, a year and a half apart, we did have some financial turmoil—our worst of times. 
The picture turned its bleakest at Christmas one year as we considered our checking account, barely double digits, and no savings for family gifts.  We still had an artificial tree we put up each year and some ornaments passed down through our families.  But it was going to be pretty sparse under the tree that year.
While I fretted what to buy my wife (and to compound matters, our wedding anniversary is also in December), she seemed to have no difficulty figuring out what to get me.  I came home one night to find several presents for me, wrapped nicely and placed under the tree.  After all my worry, and given our financial plight, this seemed like extravagance.  I became upset and chided her for spending too much money.  Her eyes moistened, and I remember so distinctly her words and her sad, tear-choked tone, “You just don’t understand….”
I tried not to mention the subject anymore before Christmas, but it was sure on my mind as I fumed and thought about meeting the mortgage in two weeks.   On our anniversary, two days before Christmas, she handed me a gift from under the tree.  I unwrapped it and found a single bright, white t-shirt.  Well, that couldn’t have cost too much.  I appreciated her frugality in giving something that I truly needed.  Over the next two days, as I opened all the gifts she had wrapped for me, it became clear what she had done.  She had purchased two packages of underwear—three t-shirts and three pairs of shorts—opened the packages and wrapped each article separately.
I really had not understood, as she said.
So while we were having our “worst of times”, that one incident brought home to me, albeit belatedly, that it was also the best of times.  We were laying a solid foundation for our children, founded in love from and between their parents, and that was worth more than a second income to us.  We started small, poor even.  But we tried to save money, live frugally and yet happily by enjoying the closeness of family above all else.  Those are years and memories I still cherish.
Your worst of times may look very different than mine.  Unemployment?  Divorce?  Bankruptcy?  Broken family?  Whatever the loss, whatever the turmoil, while it may appear there is nothing “best” about these times, perhaps there is a kernel, some small glimmer in the darkness that, even if it cannot bring a smile now, at least might become a very fond memory later.  This is the season of hope, the season of promise.  And the very things that break our hearts and our spirits now might be the fertile ground from which much better things will spring.
A Merry Christmas to you and all those who are dear to you,



Who dares despise the day of small things…?”  Zechariah 4:10

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
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