Stories of Kindness from Around the World

For the Man Who Hated Christmas

--by Ben Lawder, posted Dec 20, 2008

[ Note: This story below was written by Nancy Gavin and originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman's Day magazine. You can watch a video of this story here.]

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 ten 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--overspending... the 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 to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.


38.9K Reads

Readers Comments

Susie wrote: My husband and i have been full-time medical missionaries to the peruvian amazonia since 1997 and we work closely with the pastors and leaders of the churches in our area. We have built 69 churches with the funds of concerned churches in the us. This year, because of this story, our friends melissa and jay have opted to forgo exchanging gifts in order to support one of our pastors here in the amazon for a year! Thanks to the original story of mike's gift from wife nancy gavin. The gift keeps on giving!
bob wrote: What was in the envelopes that year after he died? Not that it really matters but just to know what the 3 of you were thinking
JaiKarKaur wrote: I love this story. It is truely the gift of giving that brings joy. What a great way to remember someone. Love never dies. This brought tears to my eyes
Bill wrote: Wow, mike's family has touched on the real meaning of christmas. Demonstrating love through the power of relationships. We are all starting to understand this is the real reason we celebrate chistmas, because god gave the most costly gift in the world, his son, 'for god so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. " merry christmas!
Andrew wrote: "for the man who hated christmas" is a very engaging and heart-warming story. I like it very much. Even if one has nothing to offer for a gift; the warmth of a simple smile and wide open eyes is a gift that invites love.
Nancy wrote: I read these "dailygood" stories daily. And many i share with friends and family. This story tho, should be shared with all humanity. No matter our level of ability, everyone can afford to give back in some way. Retailers would hurt greatly, but it would be a start to saving our planet from self-destruction.
supun wrote: I'm like mike, i don't like christmas either. It's always been a time of pretense and a wierd kind of obligatory stress for a lot of the people i know. So i can understand what mike means.

It was very gracious of you to do something very considerate that would make him feel good on any day. You acknowledged his good wish for someone else. You showed him that you listen to his good intention. His little comment made you do something nice and those boys' ears will be protected and they'll a great feeling of giving from your anonymous gift.

You celebrated the giving and that is super cool. Now i have to do something like that too. But i think i'll be stubborn and do it after the holidays ;)

Nice work spreading the gift of giving! You 2 are a great influence in the ripple that all these stories are apart of.

Vida Nviddah wrote: That is really a touching story. Hope the spirit of x'mass will eliminate the spirit of selfishness worlwide.
deb wrote: This is a beautiful story - i loved it. Thank you for the inspiration.
sethi wrote: A really motivating story. Thank you.

Add A Comment