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The spirit of Christmas

At Christmas time, I often think of Floyd Lewis. Floyd Lewis was a poor country boy who was a part of our sixth-grade elementary school class. He was on our baseball team, which was one of the most important groups in our lives. We loved baseball and played it every school day.

Floyd was our pitcher and he was bigger than most of us and a lot rougher. He did not come from the same side of the tracks as most of us. The clothes he wore were never fashionable or neatly ironed. He might have worn the same shirt and jeans for days and, during the winter, they had that smoky smell, as if the house had been full of fireplace smoke.

His hands were calloused, as if he had been the one to cut the wood for the fireplace. Most of us had small, propane gas heaters and a few had electric heat. None of us had to cut wood.

None of what I have said about Floyd mattered to us. We loved Floyd because he was on our baseball team. That’s all that was needed for us. Floyd was on our team and that’s all she wrote!

Back then we had Christmas parties at school and drew names to exchange gifts. If someone did not have the money to buy another person a gift, they would quietly ask the teacher to be excluded and it was no big deal. Floyd Lewis had learned, very early, that Christmas was just another day in the year. There were no expectations of gifts and he didn’t seem to care about that.

The team, though, secretly, decided to do something for our pitcher. Floyd Lewis was going to get a present at our school party because we liked him and we didn’t want him to feel forgotten. What would we get him?

He did not make good grades, but he loved to read. We had a book club for our class and ordered paperbacks. Most of us would order many more than we actually read and we always saw Floyd’s nose stuck in a book.

Every one of us decided to go through our books. He really liked science fiction so we, secretly, brought in our books and put them in a box and wrapped it up for Floyd. He had no reason to look for a present under the tree so he did not think too much of the big box and never saw his name on it.

After the refreshments and fun of the party, we began to exchange the presents. Floyd, even though he was not getting one, enjoyed seeing every one open theirs. Then the teacher called out the name “Floyd Lewis.”

We all thought Floyd would be surprised and happy. He was surprised, for sure, but when he opened it and saw all those books and the “Merry Christmas from the team,” big, rough Floyd Lewis began to cry and ran from the room.

We thought we were in trouble and asked Mrs. Frosteg, the teacher, “Have we done something wrong?”

“No,” she said. “You’ve done something kind and generous and Floyd just doesn’t know how to take it.”

I still think about Floyd Lewis. The biggest, roughest boy in our class. I had seen him in fights and he was no crybaby. He had lived a much harder life than we had. But when the unconditional love of Christmas was shown to him by his baseball team, who did not even know what they were doing, he melted. That’s the spirit of Christmas. Merry Christmas, everyone!