For richer or poorer . . . Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Thursday, 12 December 2013 22:20
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It happened during the depression years of the 1930’s. This sad Christmas story I want to tell you about.

Picture a happy little family with four primary school girls, dressed in their Sunday best. The girls were on their way home from Sunday school, holding down their little hats as the wind blew up dust eddies among the mine dumps.

“Our envelope will be the thickest,” the youngest girl, called Sarah, said. “But how are we going to do it,” her sister asked. “We’ll do odd jobs and save,” Sarah said.

Their Sunday school teacher had just announced a brand new project. They are going to collect money for the poor. All the money raised by the children will be put together so that the poorest family can have a happy Christmas.

When they got home they huddled together around the kitchen table and their mother gave them a tin in which to keep the pennies they’re going to save.

Three weeks before Christmas the girls excitedly counted the pennies. Great was their joy when they found that they could put 57 pennies in the envelope the Sunday school teacher had given them.

Before church, they proudly handed it to their teacher, who was going to put everybody’s contributions together in one big envelope – the one that will go to the poorest family. They could barely contain their excitement as they sat waiting in church for the announcement to be made. Surely they’re going to make some poor family’s Christmas a lot better.

Then they heard the minister calling their dad’s name. He stood up, walking to the front with his hands folded behind his back so that the congregation couldn’t look at the new patch their mother had sewn onto his church pants. Their mother kept turning pages in her hymn book and refused to meet her daughters’ eyes.

When they got back home, she put the kettle on the stove as the family sat around the kitchen table. They’d opened up the envelope and counted the pennies. There were seventy. The rest of the children in Sunday school had only contributed 13 pennies.

The kitchen was silent. Their dad’s chair scraped on the floor as he pushed it back. He went through the back door, still folding his hands behind his back. Then their mother followed him. The girls watched as she spoiled her church clothes sitting next to him on the old crate in the chicken coop.

“I never knew we were poor,” Sarah said to her sisters.

Many people say it wasn’t until their teens that they realised they had come from poverty. Their parents simply didn’t allow the ‘poor’ mentality to be imprinted on them.

One woman said that from an early age, whenever she’d ask her mother for something extravagant, her mother never said “we don’t have money for it”. She always said: “Yes, you can have it” and then helped her to check the price and put an action plan together, working out how long it would take her to save.

Her mother wouldn’t allow her daughter’s life to be centred around an absence of cash, around lack. So the little girl learned never so say: “I want more money.” Instead of a vague wanting-of-money, she focused on what she wanted to do with it. There is a world of difference.

So, what if a life situation suddenly put you in poverty? In which way would the Christmas you’ve been planning change? Would your relationship with your family change? Would you be a different person?
Suzanne Necker says that fortune doesn’t change people, it unmasks them. I also hope it shows them that the best things in life aren't things.

The best things about Christmas aren’t things. I’m sure that what you best remember about Christmas-past would not be the objects you received, but the treasured rituals around it.

Of course Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents! Thing is just that they might not be the presents you’ve been programmed to give or receive. The trinkets you’ve been blowing your budget on had always merely been symbols of that which you really wanted to give.

For richer or poorer, this year, may you give the gift of yourself. Isn’t that precisely what, on this day, the original gift to us had been?


© 2020 Die/The Bronberger