Â Â “It’s just a small white envelope stuck amongÂ the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, noÂ inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10Â years or so.Â Â
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. –oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercialÂ aspects of it — the overspending, the frantic running around at the lastÂ minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for GrandmaÂ — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anythingÂ else. Â 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. Shortly before Christmas, there was aÂ non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-cityÂ church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so raggedÂ that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniformsÂ and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind ofÂ 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.Â 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. Â Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish just one of them could have won,’ he said.Â ‘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.Â Â
That’s when the idea for his present came.Â That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought anÂ assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to theÂ 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 hisÂ gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year andÂ in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game,Â another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned toÂ 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 fromÂ the tree to reveal its contents.
Â As the children grew, the toysÂ gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lostÂ its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last yearÂ due to 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.Â 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 expandÂ even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyedÂ anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be withÂ us.”Â
This is not my story, but one thatÂ shares what my heart wanted to so much better.Â There isÂ tremendousÂ need in our world andÂ myriad ways to make a difference in someone’s life.Â Whether you donate to Mothers Fighting for Others education fund for our 10 girls inÂ Africa, to helping your local homeless shelter.Â My dream is that one day every holiday will include a simple white envelope….making a difference one starÂ fish at a time.