The only reason we celebrate Christmas at my house is that we have an 8-year-old. I could never be such a Grinch to deny a small boy Christmas.
Whatever happened to just getting together with family and friends and enjoying each others company? It's sad what has happened to the "Season to be jolly."
In that spirit though, I'd like to relate today about a great present I got when I was a kid... It is a present that I have received over and over these past 44 years. That was a wonderful present I received from a classmate of mine when I was a kid in Minnesota. His name was James Rudd and the present wasn't in a box. It was on his face and in his heart. Every time I see a box brightly wrapped as a present, I see Jim Rudd's face and that moment, the spirit of him, comes to visit me and I receive that wonderful gift yet again.
Even though I cannot transport my children into the past by use of a time machine, I want my children to know and experience the true joy of giving and receiving. Towards that end, I always try to relate to my kids the story of James Rudd.
When I was in forth grade, James Rudd, "Jim," wasn't really my good friend. He was a classmate. I am quite ashamed to admit that I think I wasn't very friendly to Jim because he was sometimes bullied by the other kids so, in order to make sure that they didn't bully me, I foolishly joined in in making fun of Jim. Jim was a down to earth dorky kind of kid that might remind you a lot of Opie Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show.
In those days, at Christmas time, the kids in the classroom all shared in Christmas festivities by buying one present. The catch was that you didn't know who you were buying the present for! The rules were that each child could buy one gift of no more than two dollars. Each child would wrap the present and bring it to class and put it under the tree. When it came to the last day of school, before Christmas holiday, each child would draw a name out of a hat and receive the present from the person whose name they drew.
I was quite unhappy that I drew Jim Rudd's name because he wasn't "cool" and was kind of dorky (look who's talking!) I think I was so unhappy about that drawing that it showed up on my face for everyone to see.
When I went to the tree to grab the present Jim prepared, Jim came to sit in front of me at my desk.
In those days, I was a World War II nut. I loved building plastic military models of planes, ships and tanks. Especially German tanks. I thought those were the coolest. Of course, in a class of 30 kids, with each kid buying one present to be selected at random by another child, there was no way to know what you were going to get.
To expect a King Tiger tank was probably setting myself up for a big letdown.
I got that letdown when I opened the present from Jim. It was a plastic model alright, but it was a plastic model of an old Spanish Galleon. I didn't like it at all. I am once again sad to admit that my disappointment probably greatly showed on my face even though I tried to hide it.
But then, after opening the plastic model, was when Jim Rudd gave me the present that he has been giving me every year since then. It was the present that has warmed my heart all these years. It is the story I have told my children repeatedly and am now sharing with you.
With disappointment on my face and sadness in my heart, after opening the present I looked straight into Jim eyes and he looked into mine. With the utmost sincerity and enthusiasm brimming over Jim smiled brightly to me and said,
"Mike! I hope you like it!"
I could see from his eyes and his words that he meant it from the bottom of his soul. My heart melted and I thought,
"Gee! What a really sweet, nice guy!"
Mere words on a paper could never express the way I felt at that time. Here was this incredibly sincere boy giving me a present (that he picked himself and thought was really cool) and was hoping that I would like it as much as he did.
He gave me something that he wanted! Not only that, he gave me sincerity, enthusiasm and a warm spirit of friendliness and a feeling that I will never forget until my dying day: With just one smile and six words, he gave me the true spirit of Christmas.
Jim Rudd, you gave me something that I have always remembered and I will never forget it. I recall it every year at every birthday party andChristmas and every gift-giving celebration. I wish I could give such a wonderful gift to someone someday.
I will cherish this memory all my life. And now, Jim, you allow me to share it with others. James Rudd, wherever you are, thank you so much sincerely from the bottom of my heart.... and Merry Christmas!