Flagler Beach United Methodist Church
Saturday, December 04, 2021
Open Hearts Open Minds Open Doors

A Simple White Envelope

It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree.  No name, no identification, no inspiration.  It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas--oh, not the TRUE meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma--the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to "bypass" the usual shirts, sweaters and ties.  I reached for something special, just for Mike.  The inspiration came in an unusual way.  Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.  Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.  These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.  It was a luxury the rag-tag team obviously could not afford.  Well, we ended up walloping them.  We took every weight class.  And as each boy got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just  one of them could have won."  he said.  "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."  Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them, having coached little league, football, baseball and lacrosse.
That's when the "idea" for his present came.  That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to their inner-city church.
On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.  His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year.  In succeeding years, I followed our new Christmas Tradition--one year sending a group of mentally challenged youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas and the list went on....
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.  It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their Dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.  The story does not end there.  You see, we lost Mike last year to Cancer.  When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up.  But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more.  Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their Dad.  The tradition has grown and will hopefully someday expand with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the "Simple White Envelope."