Growing Up Rich

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”~ James 1:17 (NKJV)

When I was a child, I loved Christmas. My excitement for the holiday wasn’t necessarily about gifts, but rather, it was about the joy that seemed to magically appear this time of year. Even as I got older and had a son of my own, I always looked forward to the Christmas season.

I’m feeling a little less of that joy this year, as this is the first Christmas that I will be celebrating without either of my parents. I still have joy in celebrating the birth of my Savior, but the rest of it is bittersweet.  I am not necessarily sad about Christmas; my mind just seems to be more focused on what Christmas used to be growing up with two wonderful parents.

Mom and Dad

My beautiful parents, Rose and George

Thinking back to my childhood, we didn’t have much. My father worked a full time job, plus a part time job and played in a band just to make ends meet. My mother also worked part time in a sewing factory. They both worked hard to provide for us, and even so, there were periods when my family needed government food stamps just to get by. Both of my parents grew up during The Great Depression, were hard working people, and had a tremendous faith in God, who never failed to provide for them.

As an adult, raising a son of my own, I realize that in terms of material possessions, my family was, indeed, poor. I know there were times that my parents didn’t have two nickels to rub together, yet, it wasn’t until I was older that it ever crossed my mind that we were actually poor. I truly never felt deprived of anything and can honestly say that I was a blissfully happy child.

Mary and Barb Christmas

Me and my sister, Barb, Christmas 1972

I remember one particular Christmas when my sister and I were quite young, that a friend got a toy kitchen set for Christmas. We definitely had a case of “toy envy” that year, but, as always, my mom and dad provided. They didn’t go to the toy store because they never could have afforded such an extravagant gift. Instead, they went to the grocery store and asked for some empty boxes. My father brought them home, carefully cut them and drew on them with a black marker to create our very own “toy” refrigerator, sink and stove. It didn’t come from a toy store. It was so much better.  It was an expression of the immense love that my parents had for us; the desire to provide us with the things that all children want.

So, while my family may have been labeled as “poor,” by society’s standards, we were anything but poor. We were rich in the things that mattered most. We had each other, we had love, and most importantly, we had God in our lives.

So, while there were many material things I did not have growing up, I am grateful for my childhood. I am thankful that God entrusted my earthly care to loving parents who taught me, not only to depend on Him, but also to easily recognize Him as my Provider in all things.

Life has become so much more materialistic since I was a child. Today’s generation of children have “everything.” They have computers and cell phones at a young age. They go on extravagant family vacations and have birthday parties that cost a small fortune. My childhood was radically different, and yet, it’s today’s children who have my sympathy. Most will never know the joy of receiving a gift created purely from love, such as the toy kitchen set that I still remember so vividly forty years later.

There are some things in life that money just can’t buy, and this Christmas, they are the memories I hold closest to my heart. As long as I have those, I will always be “rich,” and my mom and dad will forever be with me on Christmas.

 

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