A Story from Christmas Past

Published 11:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2023

It was a sixth grade Christmas. Every class had their Christmas party and, in those days, we drew names and exchanged gifts.

            One member of our class had asked to be excluded from the drawing of names. Floyd Lewis, I don’t know how I remember his name, but I do. Maybe it was because he was a pitcher on our baseball team.

            I’m not talking about a formal baseball team; just a group of boys who loved the game, divided up into teams and played before school, at recess, and any other spare time we had. There were no uniforms and no schedule against other schools. Shoot, we didn’t even have a baseball. I think we used a tennis ball or some other kind of rubber ball. But we loved the game and Floyd Lewis was chosen as our pitcher.

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            Floyd was a bigger boy. In the sixth grade, our ages were eleven or twelve, but Floyd seemed to be a few years older and his body was further along. I remember his hands were rougher than ours, as if the callouses had been formed by harder work, like chopping wood for the fireplace at his home.

            Christmas, as you well know, comes in the month of December and, I may be imagining, but I think it was colder back then. Floyd’s clothing was worn and it always had a smoky smell. I think that came from the fireplace that warmed their home.

            Most of our homes had those propane gas space heaters. You know the ones that a can of water was set on top to help with humidity. A few might have had electric heat, but fireplaces were not a part of the warming of our homes. If it was truly cold, I can remember daddy and momma turning on the oven and having us get dressed in front of a “toasty” oven.

            Back then, our school had book clubs where we would order paperback books on a monthly basis. If you liked sports, you might order that kind of book. If science was an interest (I really can’t believe anyone would like science), there might be a paperback book on that subject.

            To be a member of the book club cost a modest fee and the books were not expensive. Yet, for Floyd Lewis, even though he liked to read, the cost was more than his family could bear.

            Everyone liked Floyd. Economic circumstances were not even thought about back then. None of us came from rich families, but most of us had more than Floyd Lewis. Still, he was a part of our class and, even more, a pitcher for our baseball team.

            As it became known to us that Floyd liked to read and that he had opted not to exchange gifts, we all thought that it would be a good idea if we gave him a gift of our paperback books that we had read. We gathered a big box of books for Floyd and were going to surprise him simply because he was one of us.

            The day came for the Christmas party and we were exchanging our gifts. Floyd didn’t seem to mind that he wasn’t going to get one. Then, right at the last, his name was called and we presented him with a big box of books.

            It was a “not so random” act of love. To our surprise, the big and rough guy named Floyd was overwhelmed and began to cry and left the room. We thought we were in trouble for what we had done. But our teacher, instead of being mad at us, told us, “You did a good thing.” Doing good things. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Merry Christmas, my friends.