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            The Spirit of Christmas

At the discussion board site I hang out at in my free time,
someone posted the following story and I was very touched
by it -- it demonstrated to me the very heart of this
holiday season.  I cried when I read it and you may too,
but wipe the tears away and keep reading -- it's worth it!

A Christmas Story"

            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-
                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.
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 Christ,
who is the reason for the season,
and the true
Christmas spirit this year and always.
God bless---pass this along to your friends and loved ones.