What was it that drew me to him? I don’t know except maybe his brown eyes.
I was eighteen working as a teacher’s assistant at Head. Start. He was four and had that way of smiling at you that can melt your heart.
I’d sit at the small round table helping the little ones do puzzles
And they would talk.
This little boy whom I will call Billy but was not his real name
Was shy and did not mix easily with the other children.
Yes, at his young age he had already learned to keep things to himself.
But as one week led to another we built a relationship.
And slowly he began to share.
Little things at first.
About his family. His Mother who worked very hard. His young brothers and sister.
And his Dad.
I could always tell that he was nervous about his Dad. His eyes would look right into mine as if trying to tell me that what he shared was a secret.
They lived on the other side of the tracks in an old, tumbled down shack. Clearly the parents struggled to just keep the family together.
For a few hours each day that summer Billy participated with the other kids quickly learning his letters and numbers.
He was a smart one, that boy. His eyes would brighten whenever he gave the right answer.
When he finally laughed out loud it was like sunshine after a bad storm. You could just see the difference in him.
When I went off to college that year to prepare to be a teacher I oftentimes thought about Billy and his family.
I longed to reach out and help.
But there didn’t seem to be anything that I could do.
So I forced myself to be content knowing that I would work at Head Start the following summer and until then to just pray God’s blessing on those people.
That Christmas I just couldn’t get that little boy’s face out of my mind.
I wondered what Christmas would be like for them.
Probably it wouldn’t be much.
Could it possibly be wrong to give them something?
I didn’t think so. So I got a big box and began filling it with toys for the kids, candy and food, clothing and whatever else I could think of. I was so excited.
That Christmas Eve when darkness settled over the town my Dad drove me to their home.
While he sat in the car waiting, I quietly tiptoed to the front of the house, up the steps where I could hear voices inside and placed the Christmas wrapped box by their front door.
My heart beat loudly as I silently crept down the stairs and back out to the car.
Getting in, my heart was overflowing with joy.
I had done what I could.
I’ll never know what happened when their front door was opened and they took the box inside.
I’ll never know.
But the memory of that time still lingers with me as being one of the best Christmases I ever had.
Shine on. Shine on.
Life is short and there are many, many such folks with us still.
It takes so little to make a big difference that will warm your heart for years to come.
It’s been over forty years for me. Seems like yesterday.
They say that love is eternal. And it is true.
I love you, Billy.