Henry scribbled seven names on an old napkin as his nasty cigar smoke swirled upward through the shade of the reading lamp. Erma cracked a window and started the ceiling fan in an effort to conceal the abysmal ambience. Erma hated cigars. She’d endured Henry’s habits all these years and she just couldn’t seem to curb his appetite for a good stogie.
“What’ll we get the kids for Christmas this year, Erma? Is there anything they really need?”
Erma loved Christmas. She lived to spoil her two grown sons, their wives and especially the grandkids, Sadie, Noah and ‘Little Henry.’
“We can make a trip to Toys R Us this week-end and find something special for each of the kids. I have no idea what to get for the others. They already have everything they need or want!”
Henry scrutinized the list with that ‘look’ which frequently caused Erma to worry. I’d like to do things a little different this year.”
Erma loved Henry, but when he wanted to do something different, it made her nervous. Christmas was perfect just the way it was, and she did not want her special holiday spoiled by one of his eccentric notions.
“What do you mean ‘different’, Henry? What’s wrong with the way we always do it?”
“Erma, we can give shirts or tools, gift certificates……perfume for the girls………but have you ever noticed that we never see any of those gifts again? Everyone’s always grateful, they always send a nice thank you, but ‘things’ mean nothing to our kids. I’ll bet you $5.00 not one of them would remember what we gave them last year.”
Erma warmed her hands over the fire to counteract the chill from the open window. “So what’s your plan, oh Wise One?”
“Well, I would like to buy Henry Jr. and Donna a cow.”
Erma was mortified. “What? A cow? Are you mad? For Heaven’s sake, what would they do with a cow? Henry, have you lost your mind? They live in the city!”
He continued, “For Donny and Brenda, bunk beds.”
“Now I know you’re losing it. You know Donny and Brenda are not planning on having any children. Why in the world would they need bunk beds?”
Henry kept talking - to no one in particular. “….for Sadie a goat, Noah a lamb, and Little Henry…..five chickens. I promise you, everyone will love the idea.”
Erma shook her head and stared at Henry in disbelief. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“Do you remember that brochure we got at church on Sunday, the one with the holiday outreach opportunities?”
With a deep breath, she tried not to roll her eyes, “Yes, I saw it.”
Henry slipped his spectacles on and slid the colorful pamphlet out of his well-worn Bible. “Look Erma, $350.00 will buy a cow for a family in Asia. This cow will not only produce milk and cheese for a family, but those things can also be sold for income.”
Erma was listening.
“A set of bunk beds for one of our Sudanese families costs $250.00 - a goat goes for $55.00, a lamb for $60.00 and chickens, only $5.00 each. Don’t you think our kids would appreciate gifts given in their name to people who could really use some help?”
In one of those rare moments, Erma reached over and squeezed Henry’s hand. “I think you’re idea is wonderful.” And yes, I think the kids will love it. But what about us, Henry? I want to get you a gift.”
“Yes Dear, of course. Now for the pièce de résistance.” *Jesus said: "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“I don’t get it, Henry. What’s the catch?”
“For $1,000 we can give a Jesus-well that provides clean water for a whole village!”
“Oh Hon, this is going to be our best Christmas ever.”
“Ok, so put on your coat!”
“Why, where are we going?”
“Toys R Us! I think goats, lambs and chickens might be a lot more palatable if they’re accompanied by a couple of trucks and a Barbie, don’t you?”
“Oh Henry, can we stop at the Smoke Shoppe? I want to buy a big fat box of Don Diego cigars for my favorite husband in the whole wide world.”
And they lived eternally ever after.
*John 4:10 (NIV)
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