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The True Meaning

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Outdoors
Jan 1st, 2014


Share the Gifts You Have This Christmas
article by Dan Chason

Christmas is about kids.  I think that every grownup alive remembers Christmas from a child’s perspective, even though old memories are replaced with new ones.  I am no different.  Even though my parents did not have a lot, they taught us from an early age that Christmas was about giving to others.  That lesson became very real to me at the young age of 8.
I had been hunting with my father since I was old enough to walk.  He wasn’t an avid hunter, but he liked it.  His favorite was squirrel and rabbit hunting.  But there is a story behind the story.  My father was a firm, no second chances, better not make a mistake, safety minded hunter.  My first year of hunting with my dad with a gun encompassed my carrying an EMPTY Daisy BB gun.  I was 6 years old.  If Dad saw the end of your barrel, he took the gun away from you.  You didn’t get it back.  I can remember walking ever so quietly, trying to match his long footsteps in the mud, only to have him turn around at me with his index finger over his mouth.  I knew I had made a noise.  In those days, my dad was a ninja Indian hunter, and I mimicked everything he did so I could be a great hunter one day.  I still remember those lessons every time I go afield.

Then in the fall of my 7th year on earth, my dad handed me his Stephens .22 rifle.  No bullet in the barrel, mind you, but it was a REAL gun.  I shot my first squirrel with it.  Then he let me go dove hunting and handed me his J.C. Higgins 12 gauge shotgun.  The first dove that landed in a tree was toast, and I was a hero.  Oh, what memories that brings back to an old man.  Little did I know what was to come in the next year when I was 8 years old.

We lived in Millry, Alabama, and my dad was not only my parent, he was my pastor.  He was a stellar example of a father, but most of all, he was a leader in the community.  That was intimidating, but I wanted to be him.  I followed in his footsteps and did what he did when he did it.  I played ball with him, hunted and fished with him, visited the sick and elderly and even went to jailhouse services with him.  But that teaching carried over to me when I went to school.  My best friend’s name was Jim.  Jim was an outcast as he wore no shoes to school, and other kids picked on him.  They said he smelled, but I didn’t care.  Jim was my friend.  We had been friends for the two years I had lived there, and it mattered not to me whether he was liked by the others or not.  We played every recess under the porch of the old school, and I looked forward each day when I could return for those fun times.  Some days Jim didn’t come to school.   When he would return, he would be quiet, and most times he would sport a black eye that he said he got from his brother.  Jim didn’t know that I knew he didn’t have a brother. I suspected that he was not treated right at home and I tried to make it up by being his special friend.

The Christmas holidays rolled around, and I was all excited as I could see a new bicycle, a new shotgun or something special for me at my house.  Jim didn’t want to talk about Christmas.  He told me that his daddy had run off, and he didn’t like Christmas.  He even told me they didn’t even have a tree at his house.  After about a week of that talk, I decided that if Jim couldn’t have Christmas, then I wouldn’t either.  That is until my Mama got involved.

My mama grew up in a house of 15 children and has a special soft spot for the less fortunate. She has written and published a book about her life called “When Sweat Turns to Tears.” I came home, and it was a little over 2 weeks until Christmas.  Mama stopped me that morning over my Corn Flakes and asked me what I wanted.  I said, “I don’t want anything for Christmas, Mama.”  This went on until the week of Christmas when after asking me hundreds of time with the same answer, my mama finally cornered me.  “Young man, you are going to tell me RIGHT NOW what you want for Christmas.  I have to drive 100 miles to shop, and I have held up the whole holiday for you.  Now what do you want for Christmas?”

I attest her interrogation to what prisoners of war go through.   If my mama corners you up and wants an answer, you give it to her.  If you don’t, life as you know it is over.   I started crying, and Mama scooped me up in her arms.  After much crying and being so tough, I finally relented to her request.  “If Jim can’t have Christmas, I don’t want anything for Christmas.”  Mama starting crying, and big boys don’t let their Mama cry.  I hugged her and apologized, but she just told me how proud she was of me.

The next day, she took me out of school.  We drove the 98 miles to Mobile, Alabama, and we shopped for Christmas.  I chose a big red fire engine for Jim and could not wait to go to school the next day.  I ran all the way to school with that wrapped package under my arm.  I hid it in our play area and could not wait on the first recess.  Jim came to meet me and to this day I can see the mud spots his tears left on his dirty feet as his fingers combed every inch of my gift.  He and I played and played with that fire engine. It was the happiest feeling I had ever felt.  And to this day I search for that same feeling each Christmas.  Please take the time to share the true meaning of Christmas.  When you give, the return you get exceeds anything you could ever know.  Christmas and its true meaning is about the birth of our Savior who gave freely to others.  Share the gifts you have and come to know your true meaning of Christmas.  Happy Holidays.