Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas (04/25/05)
TITLE: Christmas Day Letters
By Deric Hutson
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Across the room, Dad produced two envelopes from the bookcase and walked one to my sister and the other to me. Opening the card, the letter which I had come to expect every Christmas Day fell neatly folded into my lap.
I remember my first Christmas Day letter. It had fallen from the card into the lap of a bitter seventeen-year-old anxious to get away to college, filled with the foolish determination to prove to his dad that if one worked hard enough, if he only applied himself in the right trade or industry, he could easily put more under the Christmas tree than a few sparse gifts accompanied by a silly card with a long letter. That youthful misguided sentiment must have struck hard at the heart of Dad, struggling to raise three kids on the modest salary of a small eastern-Ohio church of Christ preacher.
In elementary school, standing in the reduced price lunch lines wearing clothes bought for quarter at a Saturday morning garage sale, I remember promising myself I'd give my children more. That's the image and motivation I carried with me to college.
Working three part-time jobs to pay for tuition and carrying 18+ credit hours that would surely lead to a high paying business world salary proved to be stressful, even overwhelming at times. When it got to be too much one late winter evening, I stepped outside the dormitory, walked to the payphone, put the cold receiver to my ear and dialed the number collect. Mom accepted the charges. We spoke briefly about things I don't recall, and then I asked if Dad were awake. She said yes and I love you. I love you too, Mom. And the phone was handed to Dad.
I discovered that evening that there's something inexplicably reassuring about the voice of a father in the darkest hours of your life. I didn't know it then, but there would be many more even darker hours in the years to come. But thru all of them there was Dad, offering reassuring words of wisdom, reminding me that there's a faithful God to call on, and loving me with an unconditional love when I wasn't very lovable.
At the end of each year, there was a Christmas Day letter. Unlike the annual Christmas letters sent to us from other friends and relatives trying desperately to catch everyone up on children born, moves made, jobs taken, in short, time not spent because life is just too busy--Dad's letter is written from the perspective of a father looking in on his son's life. It's a letter written about the decisions I've made that year and lessons he's witnessed me learn from them. It's about the accomplishments I've achieved and opportunities both taken and lost. It's about the love he sees me sharing with my wife and the way I'm raising my daughter. It's about the faithfulness I've shown to God and the way I'm serving His church. In the end, it's a letter about the pride he has as a father and the unconditional love he has for me. In the end, it's more than any child could ask for in a Christmas present.
Looking up from the letter, I glanced across the room at my younger sister as she finished her Christmas Day letter. Now on her third marriage, she'd come thru some incredibly dark hours too. Yet thru all those mistakes, thru all those indiscretions, the way she looked up at my father now, I knew instantly she had his unconditional love too.
With the excitement brimming over, unable to wait another moment, Ava and her cousins tore into their presents. Looking thru the viewfinder as I recorded the moment on video, I silently promised her, not plentiful gifts, but Christmas Day letters and unconditional love in the dark hours of her life.
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