Monday, December 17, 2012

Giving at Christmas

Have you heard the white envelope story?  If not read below:

A Christmas Story of the White Envelopes

December 1, 2009 by Valley Bugler  source
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 10 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, mostly black.
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 it’s 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 around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember each other, and the Real reason for the season, and His true spirit this year and always. God bless—pass this along to your friends and loved ones.
— Copyright © 1982 Nancy W. Gavin
The story first appeared in Woman’s Day magazine in 1982. My mom had sent the story in as a contest entry in which she subsequently won first place. Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer two years after the story was published. Our family still keeps the tradition started by her and my father and we have passed it on to our children. Feel free to use the story. It gives me and my sisters great joy to know that it lives on and has hopefully inspired others to reach out in a way that truly honors the spirit of Christmas. — Kevin Gavin

This story has inspired me to seek out opportunities to serve others-especially at this time of year. Here some fun ideas, that our family has done. I hesitated to post this, because I don't want it to come across like I am bragging about these things, but I do want to share some ideas.

I heard on the radio that a local charity (Family Service Association) was looking for people to adopt families for Christmas.  I went online and signed-up for a family.  It was so much fun, I decided to share the joy and so sent around a sign-up at church for other's to participate.  We ended up providing Christmas for 77 people.  We were supposed to deliver them in black garbage bags and the sight of so many garbage bags has never made me so happy.  People were so generous, it ended up taking a mini-van and 2 SUV's to transport all the stuff down there.

Twelve Most Wanted Items

This one was a real challenge for my kiddos, but had a big impact as it really required a little sacrifice on their part.  In my church, we spend the first Sunday of every month in fasting and prayer (and a little grumbling at my house).  We then donate the money that we would have spent on food.  
Last December, we picked an extra Sunday to fast.We started Saturday night. The kid's earned money for every hour they fasted.  Since they were mostly sleeping,the first 10 hours were pretty easy, so I gave them $1/ hour for those.  Then $2 for every hour after that.  Then we all went to the grocery store Monday night and spent our money.  They were excited to buy their favorite cereal or snacks and some practical items as well. Then we donated all of our items to our local food bank.

Contribute every time you walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer.  Last year, they were outside Wal-Mart, and I'd donate a dollar every time they shopped there, but I haven't seen one bell ringer yet this year.

Wreaths Across America Website Banner Image

I love this organization!  You can sponsor a wreath for as little as $15 for military cemeteries around the country.  You can also volunteer your time to go and place the wreaths or go and clean them up after the holidays.  My friend participated laying wreaths at Arlington Cemetery last Saturday. She said there were hundreds of people there and you could hear a pin drop.

12 days of Christmas
When we were very poor students with 2 kids, another family left us surprises every night for 12 nights.  Super Fun!  We've even had the opportunity to do this for someone else

Christmas Clings
The Happy Home Fairy buys Christmas themed clings at the dollar store and then places them wherever she fees needs a little Christmas cheer (friend's bathroom mirrors, the drive-up window at the pharmacy, car windows, etc).  How fun is that?

How does your family "give" during the holidays?


  1. Thank you so much for this post. Tears flow down my face. What a beautiful tradition to start today

    1. I love the story too and my envelope is my favorite thing I give my husband each year.

  2. Those are great ideas. I don't think I had heard of the white envelope thing...but I love it!
    We did a Christmas jar this year. We had a jar on the counter that we would just fill with change or any bills through out the month then deliver it anonymously to someone in need. I was impressed with how willingly the kids would put money in the jar :)