From then on, I've enjoyed and appreciated outdoor lighting displays. I've always thought of them as generous gifts of a neighbor, a street, or town merchants to their visitors. And this is kind of embarrassing to admit, we've never put up outdoor Christmas lights. I'm not quite sure why, although there's been lots of excuses. You know, like not enough time to put up or take down. The weather got nasty before we could pretend to make the effort. Or maybe the expense didn't seem advisable (doesn't that sound so much better than we're too cheap?).
Do you want to know what I think is the real reason Tom and I don't put up Christmas lights? (Well, of course, you do or you wouldn't still be reading now, would you?) I think the real reason is because our parents didn't. What? Tom's dad was a carpenter and handyman with no equal. It wasn't that he couldn't, but he was raised on a farm where there was never enough time for something that frivolous. My dad? The son of a carpenter, Daddy almost couldn't drive a nail without getting injured, and he grew up during the Depression. Enough said.
So, here we are, decades later. Still not hanging Christmas lights, and still driving out of our way to exclaim over others's handiwork and comment on their thoughtfulness. 'Course, along with the tastefully designed and executed displays, there are the outrageous, did Ace Hardware vomit on your front yard amalgamations, aka Chevy Chase "Christmas Vacation". I don't know about you, but we just shake our heads, laugh, and are thankful we don't have to live by one of "those" neighbors.
Thinking about the spectrum of lighting gifts got me to thinking about other Christmas gifts. My family has pretty good taste so those gifts are usually pretty good, or at least exchangeable. But as an elementary teacher, Katie bar the door, you never know what might be in that package being thrust at you by the gleeful and very proud student.
One of my favorite gifts came from perhaps the poorest boy in my class one year. Patrick was slow, and frequently unkempt, but his smile overshadowed all that the day he brought me a dustpan and broom set for our classroom because, "Mrs. Walters, you can never find them when you need them." Oh my gosh, I'm tearing up now just thinking about it. That was one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.
At a time of year when giving is encouraged, expected, enthusiastically embraced, do we sometimes miss the boat entirely by trying to give the biggest, the best, the most beautiful? How sad it would be for our gifts to humble, or worse embarrass, another giver. And just as important, what message should our countenances convey as we receive those timely tokens, whether tasteful or tacky?
I really like getting presents, and I hope that you will get that special gift you're hoping for this holiday season. Mostly, I pray that your heart will be blessed by both giving and getting. What are you hoping for this year? What's the most meaningful gift you've ever received?
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.