Back in ’08, I was inspired by Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas song, “All I Really Want for Christmas” and wrote a short story about it. I’ve posted it here before under the tab “My Writings” and thought I would share it again. I have no idea how to get it published or what to do with it, so I’ll just put it here each year. Half of it is here; the rest of it is under “My Writings.” I hope you enjoy! **Do not copy or use without written permission from the author.**
The first time I saw him, it was Christmas Eve at the children’s home. I had volunteered my time, and my husband’s, in order to help distribute Christmas presents to the orphans at the children’s home. We were far from home and family, serving as missionaries in another country, and this seemed like an appropriate thing to do Christmas Eve. Personally, it helped take my mind off of being away from friends and family for the holidays. I needed something totally different to do so I wouldn’t think about being so far from home. My husband tagged along; not because he needed it like I did, but because we were missionaries. This is what missionaries do on Christmas Eve.
The children’s home was on the edge of town. It was filled to overflowing with children of various ages and genders who had either been abandoned or orphaned. Most were under the age of 10, although a few were in their early teens. We never did get a proper head count of the children.
Local churches and individuals had donated gifts too many to count. We had spent the past month volunteering our time and energy in order to sort, pack, and wrap those gifts. Tonight, we distributed them. The joy in the children’s home was palpable!
We lived in a poor country, so decorations, even in the children’s home, were scarce. I had made a few popcorn strands and some paper chains with colored paper I had brought from home. My husband had gotten out a pair of scissors and gone to work on some white paper to make snowflakes we could hang from the ceiling. Someone had gotten industrious and made a red coat and white beard with a giant red hat so my dear husband could dress up like Santa Claus in order to hand out the gifts and listen to the kids’ wishes. Someone had sent me some key baking ingredients from home, so I had made a batch of what I considered to be “real sugar cookies.” A few others had brought some more traditional desserts and fruit had been donated. To the kids in the home, it looked like a feast!
The children were dressed in their finest. They ranged from pretty, colorful, traditional dresses on the girls to more subdued, clean pants and shirts on the boys. A few girls had on some more American-style clothing, but all of them had giant red bows in their hair that another lady had made for them. Everyone was beaming, laughing, and running around the room.
As I carried the punch bowl across the room, I lifted it high above my head so as not to get bumped, and looked across the sea of laughing children. Over in the corner, though, I noticed one, small child. He was a little boy, only about eight years old. He looked lost and horribly lonely. His clothes were tattered and obviously donated by well-meaning Americans. His plaid green shirt stood out in the crowd. It looked faded and worn; I wondered who in the U.S. thought it a good idea to send down a used, worn-out “John Deere” shirt to an orphan in another country who had nothing else to wear? I shook my head, more at the inconsideration of the American who sent the shirt than at the thought of this little boy standing off alone on Christmas Eve.
I set the punch bowl down and wandered over to the line of kids waiting to sit on “Santa’s” knee and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. The gifts would be handed out once all the children who wanted to had talked to Santa. My husband listened closely to each request, gave his best “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and handed them a lollipop before sending each child on their way. I could tell by the look in his eye that he was loving his job.
I stood to the side and listened to some of the requests. Most were asking for toys like dolls, trucks, or books. Some of the requests were so specific, I couldn’t help but smile! My husband’s eye would catch mine when that happened and we both had to suppress a laugh. I looked at the line and noticed then that the little boy in the plaid shirt was still standing off by himself and hadn’t joined the line.
My confidence in the language wasn’t overly high, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I walked up to the little boy and tapped him on the shoulder. His eyes got huge as he turned to look at me. He looked scared, so I immediately reassured him that he wasn’t in trouble. I asked if he’d like to talk to Santa and he shook his head no. He said he’d tried to talk to Santa last year, but it hadn’t made any difference. Santa obviously hadn’t listened. I told him maybe he should try one more time. He turned his big, brown eyes up to me and whispered, “Do you think he’ll care?” I assured that him that, of course, Santa would care! He reached up and took my offered hand and walked very solemnly across the room to the end of the line.
The happy voices of the other children faded as I watched this little boy’s face as we waited our turn. He looked so serious for one so small. His eyes were focused on Santa, but I could tell his mind was elsewhere. He looked nervous and I could feel his hand shaking as held onto mine with a vice-like grip. Slowly, the line moved forward. He was the last one to get to talk with Santa that night.
Finally, it was his turn. My husband, the wonderful Santa that he was, reached out his big hands and smiled a welcome at the frail little boy in the plaid John Deere shirt. The little boy walked tentatively up to Santa, who promptly picked him up and set him on his lap.
I could hear Santa ask, “Now, what would you like for Christmas?”
There was such a long pause, I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the little boy to respond. I was just about to prompt him, when he took a deep breath and turned his big eyes to Santa. I saw my husband’s happy expression change to one of concern for rolling down the little boy’s cheek was one giant tear drop.
I leaned forward to hear what he had to say since he barely managed to whisper his request.
“I don’t know if you remember me. I talked to you last year. And the year before that. In fact, I’ve talked to you every year since I was three. I’m eight now. And I don’t want any toys. I want…” another tear rolled down his cheek. My husband, Santa, caught my eye really quick to make sure I was listening then looked down at the boy. “…a family. I want a mommy who will tuck me in at night. I want a daddy to play with me and teach me how to play soccer. I want” another tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn’t seem to notice, “to never be alone again. Santa, can you bring me a family? That’s all I want for Christmas.”
His request was so sincere I felt my heart burst inside me. My husband was speechless. The little boy looked up at him with such an imploring gaze, I had no idea how my husband would respond. I watched the tears roll softly down the little boy’s face, wetting the front of his plaid shirt. My husband wrapped his arms around the child and gave him a big hug. He looked over the top of the boy’s head at me and said softly, “I’ll see what I can do.”
I had to leave. I went to the restroom and locked the door behind me. The tears came so fast, I wasn’t sure I could stop them. There I was, trying to forget about not being able to be with my family, totally not even acknowledging that at least I had a family to try to forget about! I had lamented being away from home, living on a missionary salary and not being able to have the huge Christmas celebration I was used to, and not wanting to be in the country over the holidays – period! Humility poured over me like a tidal wave. How selfish could I possibly be?
When I finally composed myself and emerged from the restroom, my husband was already changed out of his Santa suit and was frantically looking for me. He caught my arm and dragged me to the punch bowl, out of ear shot of a couple other volunteers.
“Did you hear that request?” his eyes were red-rimmed. I knew he had either been trying to not cry, or had just composed himself from crying.
“Of course I heard!” I bit my lip. I was not going to cry again. I looked around the room for the boy, but he seemed to have disappeared.
“Well, what do you think?”
“What do you mean, ‘what do I think’?”
“I mean, what are we going to do about it?”
I jerked my head around to look him in the eye. “What?”
“You heard me. How do we fix this?”
If his eyes hadn’t been so serious and his grip on my arm so strong, I would’ve had a hard time believing he was serious. “Fix this? You want us to go find the poor child a family? Wouldn’t we have to find every child in here a family if we did that? You know that’s not possible.”
“Not find him a family. Be his family. We’ve talked about adopting. Why not now? Why not him?” his eyes held my gaze and searched them for my answer. I was so stunned I wasn’t sure how to respond at all!
“Be his family? We don’t know anything about him! We aren’t ready to be parents – much less to an eight year old! I…” my voice cracked. I couldn’t go on. My husband’s eyes glazed over. He looked dejected, almost like I’d rejected him. I felt awful for answering how I did, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around being the solution to this boy’s problem.
“Think about it. What’s different from adopting a newborn baby that we know nothing about, and adopting an eight year old we know nothing about? Either way, we’re starting from scratch. I would dare say I know more about eight year olds than newborns, too! Why couldn’t we do this?”
He was serious. So serious, I was almost scared. But, he had a good point. We had no other children; neither of us knew a thing about babies; both of us wanted to adopt at some point in our lives. Our hearts had always been that we would take care of and work with children. If there was a way we could help a child to grow up to know, love, and obey God, we would find it. Why would adopting an eight year old not be one of those ways? My mind was spinning.
The rest of the evening went by in a blur. We passed out packages; sang Christmas carols around an old, out-of-tune piano in a language I wasn’t completely familiar with; ate a ton of food that was so far from traditional, I’m still not sure how to categorize it; and left knowing we had the biggest decision of our lives yet to make.
Neither of us could sleep that night. We woke up Christmas Day feeling more tired than the night before. We opened our few packages sent from home, watched “White Christmas” on our laptop, and ate the cranberry sauce someone from home sent us – straight from the can. By mid-afternoon, our emotions boiled over and we finally started honestly discussing this new dilemma.
Three days later, we still hadn’t reached a decision. I was due to return to the orphanage in just two more days in order to help teach a new weekly Bible Club there. I knew I could not face the brown-eyed boy in the John Deere plaid shirt if we didn’t have an answer. Even though the child hadn’t asked us directly to be his parents, my husband felt God had. So, why didn’t I feel like God had asked me the same question? …
Look under the tab “My Writings” for the conclusion of the story…