Sometimes life’s most cherished memories are stored during times of struggle, rather than abundance.
Of course, if it’s true that having change in one’s pocket qualifies as abundance in comparison to the majority of the world’s population, then struggle remains something with which I admittedly have no familiarity. It’s just that I didn’t necessarily feel that way some decades ago when hitch-hiking to multiple minimum wage jobs and dwelling in a cramped, single-wide, non air-conditioned mobile home with my pregnant wife, Claudia.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any kind of honest labor or living in a mobile home. It’s just that delivering pizzas until midnight while trying to earn a college degree proved a means to an end, not my life’s ambition.
In those days, the myriad financial aid programs currently available to students didn’t even exist. The federal government didn’t pay for my college degree; my little wife did. Claudia toiled in a factory by day and cooked up beans-and-weenies by night, as we scrimped and saved just to pay the next semester’s tuition.
Truth be known, I rarely purchased books for my college courses - just flat didn’t have the money. Instead, I typically sat on the front row of each of my classes, listened intently to my instructors, and took copious notes. In preparing for tests, I would upon occasion borrow a book from a classmate for a night or two.
By the way, that’s not a formula I would recommend to any serious student, but, hey, you do what you have to do.
Anyway, squeezing a Christmas present into that matrix for my beautiful, dutiful wife was darn near impossible. Paying the light bill was our gift to one another. I remember one particular year that I didn’t even have the aforementioned pocket change to buy Claudia a card. So, I sat up on Christmas Eve and wrote her a song for a present. I entitled it, “You’re the Star atop my Christmas Tree.”
I sang it for her on Christmas morning. Barely knowing three chords on my old, flat top Harmony guitar and having a voice that would cause a cat to cringe, it wasn’t much of a gift. But, as blasphemous as it may sound, my circumstance was not unlike that of the humble widow in Mark 12:43. My song wasn’t much, but it was all that I had.
As the years have passed, God has richly blessed me, and I have been able to do a bit better by Claudia. But, to this day, I don’t think she’d exchange my crummy, caterwauling song for a bracelet or a broach. After all, tiny diamond chips aren’t the only thing that’s forever.
To anyone who’s endured this writing, my Christmas wish for you is that there’s someone special in your life – whether it’s a spouse or a family member or a friend – who is the “star atop your Christmas tree.”
Dr. Scott Elliott is the president of Meridian Community College.