Every Christmas I can remember, there has always been this one special ornament. It is not the most expensive. It is not the prettiest. It is not the biggest… yet the message it holds is bigger than the tree. This ornament is a small green stocking with red and white accents. This stocking has been part of every Christmas I have known and this year, I am humbled to have it on our tree.
My family has always loved Christmas. When I was little, as soon as Thanksgiving was complete, we flung our Christmas cheer. My sister would help my mom decorate inside the house, while I had the honor of being my dad’s assistant for our exterior illumination. Each year when the decorating was complete, the story of this small stocking would be told and each year we would listen.
The stocking was a gift in December of 1972. My parents had been married in August of that year and my dad was completing his student teaching during the fall. He was teaching sixth grade (still part of elementary school in Hobbs, NM). With my dad student teaching, my parents clearly had no money…. a few weeks later, my dad would spend his first Christmas married in a hospital with pneumonia.
But you see, while my family could focus on the many roadblocks in life, this stocking was a reminder of the good that happens in the midst of darkness. This stocking was given to my dad from the students in the class where he student taught. Not only did they give him a stocking but it was filled with coins and some dollar bills… while this might seem small, it provided much needed income for my parents.
Each Christmas, we would be reminded of not only of the struggles of our family, but also the goodness of those we have encountered on our journey. Today, we often see those focusing on what they don’t have instead of the goodness that is around. I am thankful that a small stocking has been the teacher for not only me, but also my son today.
I have no clue if the class of students my dad student taught that semester in 1972 even remember Mr. Bigbee. I am sure they would never imagine the stocking filled of coins would be a reminder for two generations of the importance of focusing on the goodness, the importance of remembering where you have come from, the importance of valuing people over things. And for me that is the beauty of life… the beauty of realizing the small things we do each day really can change the life of others… realizing what we think is a small gesture can be a lifetime of lessons.
This stocking is small, it is empty, but it continues to teach the most lessons. I love Christmas not because of the presents… I love Christmas because of the memories… the lessons that never end. It is a small stocking yet it is a message that has defined how I approach life… and I am grateful.