Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
It's Christmastime and thoughts are often turned to the giving spirit of the season.
We think about the gifts we would like to give and even give some thought to the gifts we would like to receive. Early in life, it's more about the latter, but as we grow older, it becomes more about the former.
Lately, I've been reflecting on some of the best gifts I've received over the years. Several stand out in my memory.
I recall back when I was 6 years old getting a Lone Ranger hat, mask and six-shooters that actually shot caps.
In 1980, my father surprised me with an Atari 2600 video game system, something I bugged everyone all year about wanting that Christmas.
In my senior year of high school, my mom, knowing I was heading off to college in a few months, bought me my first computer - an IBM PC Jr. - with a whopping 512K of memory!
Once we reach adulthood, the gifts aren't quite as exciting, and when you're a parent, it's not about getting fancy gifts at all. Sometimes, though, the best gifts are the simplest ones.
The greatest gift I ever received came from my four children back in 2015.
That was a difficult year for all of us.
That summer, their mother and I finalized our divorce after nearly 17 years of marriage. As with many divorces - especially those involving children - it was an acrimonious process.
That fall, I lost the small newspaper that I owned and operated due to financial hardships.
My two oldest children, who were living with me, were still in high school, so moving away was not an option I would consider.
After nearly two months of job searching with no unemployment benefits because I had been self-employed, I landed a warehouse job that paid a fraction of what I had been making with my newspaper.
It was a difficult, physical job with long days on my feet, hours of mindless work and a tightly run structured schedule - all the exact opposite of the life of a newspaper journalist.
When Christmas rolled around, I was in a dark place. I was broke, I was physically worn, and I was discouraged.
On top of everything else, I was facing a Christmas without my four children for the first time in their lives.
We had our little Christmas gathering on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
My one present from my children was in a gift bag. I opened the bag and pulled out a Mason jar.
On the jar, was a handwritten label that read, 'Reasons why we love you!”
Inside, there were a few dozen slips of torn notebook paper. On each slip, one of them had written something.
Many of them were funny or silly, like, 'Your grammer is good” (intentionally misspelled) and 'You wear cool suspenders.”
Some were touching, like, 'You are there for us when we are sad” and 'You set a good example for us.”
Near the bottom of the jar, I pulled out a slip of paper that read, 'You don't give up.”
The tears began to flow. They probably didn't know how close I was to giving up at that point.
That jar, that sweet, simple Christmas gift saved me.
I keep that jar close to me. It currently sits on my dresser, and I will occasionally go through and read those slips of paper any time I need a pick-me-up.
So at this time when we're thinking about what gifts we'll buy or what gifts we'll get, remember that it's the simplest gifts given from the heart that will last.