“I recall a Christmas when my single mother drew me aside one day and said, ‘Ash’—she probably called me by my nickname SMASH—’I have to ask you a favor.’ She then continued to inform me that her Christmas budget this year was practically none. ‘I need your help, the only item I was able to buy for you was nail polish, and this year I need you to be okay with that,’ she explained.
I’d outgrown the years of begging Santa for gifts, but I’d never envisaged a Christmas when we’d have almost nothing beneath the tree. ‘Do not buy me another thing,’ I begged, looking my mother in the eyes. ‘If you have any money left over, get something for the younger girls.’ My younger sisters were 5 and 7 years old, and I was confident that they still believed in the tiny cheerful man in the red suit.
On Christmas morning, I unwrapped nothing but my nail paint, just as she had promised. As the others opened their little gifts, I sat quietly.
As I gulped back tears, it was difficult to breathe. I wasn’t upset about the gifts, but it was painful to watch my mother try to smile—I could see it on her face…she felt like she had let us down.
There was a knock soon after. We hurried to our small duplex’s door, and as it swung open, we were shocked to discover what appeared to be a miniature tree standing proudly on our doorstep. Instead of leaves, this little tree boldly displayed individually wrapped dollar dollars, which were attached tightly to each branch by tiny ribbons.
As we took up the little magical plant and carried it into our cramped kitchen, tears welled up in my eyes. My mother’s face was wet from tears as she watched us count what felt like a million dollars, and I looked up to see her. That Christmas, we felt wealthy—we were wealthy in blessings, riches, and love. Someone cared enough about us to recognize that year…we only needed a smidgeon of hope, not in a merry man in a red suit, but in Christ. That day, they were His hands. Angels who left a small note in that tiny duplex to let us know we weren’t forgotten.
Let’s fast forward five or six years. It’s that time of year again. My mother remarried a very generous and loving man who stated, ‘Kids’—there were twelve of us between them, maybe six of us living at home—’ This year, we’d want to do things a bit differently and donate our gifts to a family in need. We’ll give you a budget and pair you up with a partner to shop for each of their children, and we’ll deliver everything on Christmas Eve. Our goal is to keep them guessing about where it comes from. It’ll be a lot of fun, but there’s one catch: we’re not going to buy anything for any of you.’
My thoughts instantly returned to the nail polish, the money tree, and my mother’s expression. ‘Yes!’ I exclaimed, ecstatic.
I went it a step further—as I often do—and knocked on their door with a phony school research questionnaire.’ I needed to meet the people for whom we were going to shop. These complete strangers welcomed me into their homes. I took a look around the room. They didn’t have a television, and there was no trace of food. They had four small children. While filling out my fictitious questionnaire, they spoke to their children with great warmth. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I drove home that night, thinking about all the delightful things I was going to buy for their family.
Christmas Eve has arrived. In our front room, the boxes were all lined up and tastefully adorned. We piled them into our vehicles. We drove silently, and when we arrived at their cramped apartment, my stepfather turned around and exclaimed, ‘Ashlee, you are the fastest kid I know.’ Why don’t you be the one to ring the doorbell and dash around the corner once we’ve loaded all the presents on the porch?’
Everyone had piled into the automobiles after loading up on the porch. I rang the doorbell and dashed as quickly as my legs would allow. We sped away when I slammed myself into the automobile. A K-mart was visible over the fence from their apartment. I recommended that we walk to the parking lot and peer over the massive cinderblock fence to see if the family was there. (As I previously stated, I’m always looking for ways to improve.)
My stepbrother raised me up to the point where I could just see over the wall. There were all the presents on the doorstep, as well as a mother sobbing so hard she couldn’t even bend down to pick up one box. I could hear her cries and sense her thankfulness, but I also remembered a day when my own mother had shed the same tears—and I was filled with joy.
We got to be His hands this time—someone else got to remember His love, and we got to be a part of it. I’ll never forget either of these Christmases or the lessons I learned from feeling the earthly angels and realizing how strong it is to be one.
Heaven is near, and angels can be found all about us—some we can see, and others we can only sense. Let us constantly remember the miracles this Christmas—we even have the ability to create them. Three wise men followed a star to bring their love to a small newborn in a distant land. We don’t have to look hard or travel far to discover someone who needs to be reminded that they are loved—a small ray of hope can tell us that we are not forgotten.”
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