11: A Christmas Box Bigger than Me

11: A Christmas Box Bigger than Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

A Christmas Box Bigger than Me

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.

~David Thomas

“Christmas won’t be a lot this year. Try to be grateful for what you get and set an example for your sisters.” I don’t know whether my parents actually said this, or whether it was just something that I knew. I was ten years old, living in Calgary, Alberta, the oldest of four girls. I wanted to do my best to help my sisters enjoy celebrating Christ’s birth, and be together as a family. I wanted to show them how to be kind and have joy.

I also wanted to help my parents understand that I wouldn’t be unhappy on Christmas morning, even if there were very few presents. I knew we had enough funds for our needs, but my father had just finished optometry school and hadn’t been working for long.

A few days before Christmas we were all sitting around the dinner table when suddenly there was a loud banging on our front door, followed by the clanging of the doorbell. My sisters and I clambered over each other, all racing to answer it first and see who’d come to visit. But there was no one there. Instead, on the front stoop, sitting in the round circle of porch light, was one of the biggest boxes I’d ever seen, beautifully wrapped in bright Christmas paper. The box was so huge I could’ve climbed in and fit comfortably.

“Mom! Dad!” we screamed and shouted. We dragged the ginormous box inside and then opened it quickly. Inside we found individual presents for all of us, ham, turkey, potatoes, all the Christmas dinner fixings, candy canes, small toys, books, gingerbread and so many more wonderful things.

“I can’t believe they did this,” I heard my mother whisper. I realized then she knew who had helped us, yet it didn’t matter. The sheer joy and relief on my parents’ faces was what truly spoke to me. Each girl had been given a beautiful Christmas dress, which we immediately tried on, twirling around and pressing the fabric to our faces in sheer delight. My dress had a magnificent pattern of holly with deep reds and greens. The frills and pleats of such a dress made me excited just to put it on. The generosity we experienced that Christmas had a big impact on all of us, one that would change how I celebrated Christmas when I had my own household.

Many Christmases later, my husband and I patiently gave our almost two-year-old son individual potatoes to place into the large box that stood open in our kitchen. His small hands couldn’t hold much, but he loved helping us pack it all anyway. With a start we realized we hadn’t wrapped the box before putting everything in it. So, with help from his small hands we taped sparkly snowman paper all over, a job that took twice as long because our son wasn’t quite sure how to tape, but it was an important experience to share nonetheless.

We had asked the bishop of our church for the name of a family in need, and we truly enjoyed choosing individual gifts for them, as well as delicious food: oranges, chocolate, stuffing, pumpkin pie. It all had to be included. When it came time to carry it out to our van, it was so full my husband could barely lift the box and had to be extremely careful not to let the bottom give out.

When we arrived at the family’s house we carefully drove past it and parked a little ways down the road, with the van facing away from the house to allow us to make a fast escape. I helped my husband load the box onto the porch and, after checking to make sure there was a light on inside, I snuck back to our van and had it ready and waiting. Then my husband banged on the door, rang the bell, and took off!

As I watched from the driver’s seat he appeared around the corner of the house like an Olympic runner, moving so fast he nearly fell on the slippery snow. He then hurdled the neighbour’s shrubs before leaping into the passenger seat and slamming the door. I felt like the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers. We made it away unseen.

As often as my family is able I will build this box. I want to be the person who gives children the same joy I had so many years ago. I want kids’ eyes to go wide as they see a box as big as themselves on their front porch. I love being a Canadian, but even more I love the fact that I live in a place where someone saw my family’s need and responded, and because of their generous gift so many years ago I was touched and my life forever changed. I will continue to pass that on — pay it forward — and touch other lives.

~Danielle Mathieson Pederson

Kamloops, British Columbia

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