The Year I Gave Homework for Christmas

perfect gift I’m a big reader. As a child, I had books hidden away everywhere — in the cushions of the couch, tucked under my brother’s car seat and stuffed into my pillowcase.

So when I was about 10 years old, I decided I would buy every person in my family a book for Christmas. I pored over the Scholastic Books order form and found books for my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I wrapped them and carefully placed them under the tree.

perfect gift brandy

On Christmas Eve, when we exchange gifts with my extended family, I was so excited to watch everyone open their gifts.

There was one problem, though.

Not everybody likes to read.

The adults were kind, even though I had given them children’s cookbooks and “chapter books.” But my cousins and siblings were a little more honest.

“Books?” one cousin mumbled. “What is this, homework?”

Looking back, it’s a funny memory. I can see that, in my passion, I forgot to think about the receiver. I didn’t consider what they wanted or what they enjoyed.

I thought of that story again this year as I was looking through this year’s Compassion Gift Catalog. As I folded down the corners of several pages, I challenged myself. I am passionate about Compassion. But was I pulling another “everyone gets a book” scenario?

But in the health section, I thought of my friend who is a pediatric nurse, and how much she would love that a malnourished child would be fed in her honor.

My uncle, who grew up on a farm, would get a kick out of opening his Christmas card to see that I had given a chicken to a child in poverty in his honor. And my mother, who worked so hard as a single mom for the first years of my life, would understand the value of helping a mother learn to read and write.

But it doesn’t end there.

I know that Compassion will spend time and energy to find the perfect recipients of those gifts.

perfect gift meal

A child who has known the ache of hunger will sit down to a hot meal.

perfect gift chicken

A chicken will lay enough eggs to be sold in the market, providing the money for a child’s first pair of new shoes.

perfect gift write

And a mother will grip a pencil and write her name — and know that this is the beginning of a new life.

This Christmas, I hope you will get the same kind of joy in finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones — and do so knowing that a child in poverty will experience the love of Jesus because you chose to give a gift in Jesus’ name.


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When you were young, do you remember giving something funny to someone as a Christmas gift, like Brandy? Share your story by leaving a comment below.

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    Suzanne O’Neal November 13, 2014

    When my sister and I were quite young, we didn’t have money for Christmas gifts. So for several years, we would pour over all the women’s magazines in our house. They used to give sample sizes of all kinds of different things. So we would order all we could find, wrap them and put under the tree. I never asked, but have wondered since what she did with all those little bars, tubes and jars.

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