27. The Perfect Giver

27. The Perfect Giver

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Perfect Giver

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.

~Angela Schwindt

A few years ago, as a Capuchin-Franciscan, I was living in a rectory that was also a friary, an abode of brothers. There were a couple of associates for the parish, a retired priest and three others who served at mission churches attached to the parish, and we all lived together.

On this Christmas Day all the other friars were gone, visiting their families for the holiday. The services for Christmas had all been completed and I was left home alone to cover possible emergencies.

In the middle of the afternoon I answered the doorbell to find a mother and son at the door. Sandy happened to be a member of one of our Bible study groups and she had Steven with her. He was just a little over three years old.

“Steven would like your permission for something he wants to do,” Sandy began. Without waiting for further introduction Steven exclaimed, “I want to give my Teddy to Baby Jesus so he can sleep.”

“We were praying at the crèche just a little while ago,” Sandy explained, “and Steven became agitated because there was no teddy bear in the crib.”

“Okay,” I hesitated. “You want to lend your teddy bear to Jesus for a while?”

“I want Teddy to stay with Baby Jesus all the time, so he can sleep,” was his reply. Sandy explained that Steven used a teddy bear instead of a special blanket at bedtime.

“A few months back I decided that Teddy needed a bath. He wasn’t dry when Steven went to bed and Steven ended up coming for a hug about four times during the night. Now he believes that a teddy bear is essential for a child to sleep.”

Trying diversion, I said to Steven, “Did you tell Baby Jesus that you love him when you were visiting?”

Instead of answering he blurted: “He needs a teddy bear so he can sleep.”

“Did he tell you he wanted a teddy bear?” I tried to delay.

“No, but he needs one. I know because that’s how I sleep. I’ll give him my teddy bear so he can sleep.”

“But Steve,” I persisted, “don’t you need to keep Teddy for yourself?”

“That’s okay,” Steven insisted. “I have the old one Mom washed. It’s dry now.” Sandy explained that she saved the older teddy bear as a spare when needed and Steven was ready to fall back on that one.

“Okay, Steve. You want to come and have a cookie first?” After a snack and a look at the friary’s Christmas tree, Steven and his mother went to take care of their errand in church.

Later, when I went to lock the church for the night, I stopped to check the crèche in the sanctuary. There was Steven’s teddy bear, bigger than the image of the Christ Child. It actually looked as though the teddy bear was hugging the infant and keeping him warm.

When we were taking down the Christmas decorations I checked but Steven did not wish to reclaim his Teddy. He figured that it belonged to Jesus. So I had it packed with the crib set and stored for the following year.

In the meantime, my Capuchin-Franciscan superiors transferred me to another parish and I was not there for the following Christmas.

Judging by the response of the parishioners, they would have chosen to have the teddy bear do an encore. As lopsided as it looked, it also looked appropriate, as though a master decorator had made the decision.

Wherever Steven is, he must be a grandfather by now. I pray that he and his children and grandchildren are enjoying the cuddly blessing of Jesus this Christmas. I know that I am blessed just to remember how Steven shared what he treasured most with his little brother.

~Bonaventure Stefun

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