As I saw the children giving Sunday, I could not help but remember a little girl I once knew...
There once was a little girl that had long brown pony tailed hair and bangs so short it was humiliating to even a four year olds self image. Her freckles smattered across her nose, and filled her face like stars do in the night. She wore hand-me-down dresses and old shoes passed down from older friends. This little girl had a birthday coming, and she knew what she wanted weeks in advance. She wanted her very own new doll. Not the plastic face, plastic molded hair dolls like the other dolls in her room; this was a special doll. She had a name-- Chatty Cathy. She had long brown hair that you could pull into a
ponytail, and she had freckles on her face and a beautiful dress with matching shoes but that wasn’t all-- she talked. She said things such as,”Please be my friend", and "Let's have a party", and “I love you", and "Please take me with you".
This little doll was the sort of doll she wanted to look like and have for a friend. The little girl was lonely; her brother and sister were much older and did not want to play with her.
It was soon to be the little girl’s birthday, but her mother and father were poor. Her father had an injury at work so he had to have surgery leaving them with no money. It was not the sort of thing that four year old little girls understand fully. She hoped and prayed for the doll to be hers for her birthday. But as the birthday neared, the mother feared that she would not have the resources for the doll. In addition, the little girl’s birthday was at the beginning of December - just twenty days before Christmas. The mother gently tried to help her understand the disappointment that may lie ahead.
"The very special doll is very expensive, and she may be your only present for both occasions. It would be only one present. Are you sure you want her?"
"Oh, that's okay, I know she will be very special and worth it", said the little girl, reassuring her mother eagerly.
The days came closer, and the anticipation rose higher each day.
On the Sunday before her birthday, she went with her mother to church as usual. She loved to sit with her mother; she felt comfort snuggled by her mother as if she had wings that nestled her close. She listened to the pastor. This week he was talking about needing money for the new pews. He said if everyone would give $20.00 for each person in their family, they could get new pews. The others were worn, torn, and falling down. The room bustled as fathers took out their wallets and mothers pulled out their check books from their big purses. But the little girl’s mother sat still.
"Mama," whispered the little girl, "aren't we going to give?"
"No," said the mother disappointingly, we don't have any money to give”.
"Oh," said the girl and settled back down.
Her heart was not settled though; she churned the problem over in her head as the pastor spoke.
After a long while she whispered excitedly, "Mama, we could give my money for Chatty Cathy. She's exactly $20.00!"
She was so pleased to have come up with a solution to the dilemma that had swirled in her little head. Her mother’s eyes filled with tears as the little girl spoke to her in her quiet voice. The mother’s eyes and heart were filled as she remembered the little girl’s delight as she spoke of the doll and the burst of glee when the commercials would come on the television. "That’s Chatty Cathy! Look! That’s my doll. Oh, can I have her, Mama?”
“How could she give up that doll?" the mother wondered and wisely suggested that they talk after the service was over.
"That would be a big decision," she said to the eager child. “That
would mean no birthday present and no Christmas present--no doll”.
The little girl knew her mother would not understand her choice, but she was sure that she wanted to give to God whatever it was that He needed.
Soon the services ended and they talked as the mother had suggested. "Do you understand that if you give this, there will be no doll?" After much discussion and hugs the mother let the little girl give the pastor the twenty dollars. She understood it was not for him--it was for God. The day came for her birthday and sure enough, there was no present. The little girl was satisfied with her decision and did not lose any joy in her birthday. The days ticked closer to Christmas, the commercials increased in frequency of the sweet little doll that she had desired. But no regrets were ever spoken: the decision stood firm. Christmas came with no expectations.
But word must have traveled through the tiny church or community, because somehow there was a present under that tree for the little girl--not just any present - but the doll she had wanted. She hugged the doll over and over whispering, "I got you, and I got you! You are the very one I wanted”.
Now she saw beyond the long dark hair, the freckled face and the prettiest pink striped dress with matching shoes to the greater gift, a gift from God. She knew it was a gift given up but given back by Him. It was a lesson she never forgot. The satisfaction and joy of giving all you have and shear delight of a God that gives it all back.
God didn't forget either...
He has blessed my life abundantly over the years. It is fifty years later, and I remember it like it was just this past December 5th. The joy of giving has never left me in regrets. May we never rob the joy of giving and the precious lessons that come along with it and the memories that last fifty years later.