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Little John's Special Gift

My Friend Debbie     It was an early fall morning and Little John was just waking up. He was waiting in his nice toasty bed for the smell of his mom"s fresh bacon and eggs and hot biscuits and gravy before getting out of bed, but the smell never came. Dad appeared at the door and said, "Come on son, it"s moving day; let"s get started." It was then when John remembered that his family was moving because his dad had lost his job at the dairy. They couldn"t afford to live in their house anymore.

     John was only seven and his mom had just had a baby girl named Lisa, who was two-months old. Lisa was asleep in the playpen in the kitchen. John sat at the table and ate his hot oatmeal while watching Mom and Dad go in and out of the house with boxes and furniture. Finally, Dad came out with John"s bed and Mom came in and said, "Go wash your face and hands; we"re fixin" to leave now." As Mom closed the door, her eyes filled with tears. When John asked her what was the matter, she said, "Oh, I just have something in my eye."

     They drove a short while and then Dad drove up to a pretty yellow house with white trim and said, "Well, here we are." When Dad stopped the truck, John ran up to the front door, and Dad yelled at him to stop, "Wrong house, son. Our house is in the back." Little John ran to the back to see their new house with anticipation, but it was ugly. He was so disappointed. It had no paint on it, the front door had writing all over it, there were two broken windows, and the wood floors had splinters all over them. Mom said that the house was very old and had been unattended for a long time. John"s mom just looked at him and told him that he was her little carpenter and helper and that together they could fix it up like new. She made a game out of fixing the house and in about six months, the house looked just like she said it would.

     John didn"t know any kids in his neighborhood. However, across the street from the yellow house was a church. John would sometimes go out and watch the children playing in the church playground. The kids would look at John and wave at him to come over and play, but Mom said he couldn"t go across the road without her. John would just put his head down, turn around and go back inside.

     After about a month, there was a knock on the door. As Mom opened the door, there was a lady and a boy standing on the porch. The boy was about John"s age. John recognized the little boy from across the street. The lady said, "Hi, my name is Christina Messer and this is my son, Mykle. We attend the church across the street and we are out in the neighborhood inviting people to visit the church and to see if there is anything we can help you out with." Mom quickly said "No, thank you." John wondered why she had said "no," because they were not eating very well, but he knew that when Mom said no, she meant no. Then Mrs. Messer told Mom that they had a great children"s program at the church and that with being new to the neighborhood, it would give Little John a chance to meet some of the other kids who lived nearby. John said, "Oh please, please Mommy, I want to play with the kids across the street." Mom said, "No honey, Mommy and Daddy have to work and we can"t take you." Mom did laundry for people in the neighborhood and Dad had gotten a paper route to help with the rest of the bills. He would even go out late at night when people were sleeping and rummage through their trash for bottles, cans, and even food. Mrs. Messer could see that Mom was a prideful lady, so she just said, "Okay, but if you need anything, here"s my number." Before she left, she offered to pick John up if it would be alright with Mom. Mom could tell John wanted to go. She told Mrs. Messer that she would let her know after she talked to her husband.

My Friend Debbie      Little John sat by the front door all afternoon, until he saw Dad"s old green pick-up truck coming down the driveway. "Dad," he yelled, "please, please, please, can I go to the church across the street? I want to play with the kids. They"re nice and they asked me to play. I like them, Dad. Can I please go to the church?" Dad didn"t know what to say or think. He wasn"t even aware that there were kids out in the church yard. Dad looked at Little John and said, "Well son, let"s go into the house and see what this is all about."

      During dinner, Mom filled Dad in on her visit with Mrs. Messer and what they had talked about. Dad told John to go wash up, it was time for bed and that Mom and he would talk about it. As John was brushing his teeth, he was wishing, for God to please let his mom and dad say yes. Although they didn"t attend church, John knew that when they sat down to eat, Mom or Dad would pray to God to bless their food. John was thinking, if God could make their food good, maybe he could make Mom and Dad say yes. He didn"t know much about God, but he knew He was the one to ask for stuff. He also knew that God had given away His Son to us, but didn"t know why. "Did His Son ask for too much stuff?," John wondered. After a few seconds of thinking, John appealed to God, saying, "I would like to go to the church across the street and play with the kids over there if You think it would be a good idea." Then he went to bed. Mom and Dad came in to tuck Little John in, as they did every night, and told him that they had decided that if he promised to behave and do his chores, he could go. "Yippee!" John yelled. Lisa woke up and began to cry. Dad didn"t look too happy, but Mom gave John a wink and told him to go to sleep. "Good night, Mom and Dad," he said, "and thanks!"

      It was Monday morning and Mom phoned Mrs. Messer to let her know that it would be fine to pick John up on Wednesdays and Sundays for church. It was so hard for John to wait until Wednesday. All he talked about was playing with the kids across the street. Wednesday finally came and Little John got up early to do his chores, which were to take out the trash, fix his bed, and put his clothes away. He put on his only pair of good clothes. The pants were above his ankles and his shirt was two sizes too big. He was ready by nine that morning; however, church didn"t start till six in the evening. Mom made John change his clothes because she didn"t want them getting dirty before he went to church. So, Little John did what he was told and waited all day till the door bell rang. There were Mrs. Messer and Mykle. Filled with excitement, John ran right past them, out the door, and down to the curb. Mykle ran down to the curb to wait with Little John. After a couple of minutes, Mrs. Messer met them at the edge of the street and they all walked over to the church together and into the classroom.

      The teacher, Mrs. Neely, was there to greet John and Mykle. She was very nice and happy to see them. They did all sorts of fun stuff. They colored and painted pictures of Jesus. They played games and won prizes. Although Little John didn"t answer any of the questions asked by Mrs. Neely, she still gave him some candy at the end of class. Mykle became his best friend that evening.

My Friend Debbie     After a few weeks, John"s Sunday school class was preparing to put on a little play about baby Jesus. The teacher had asked all the children to think of what present they would like to bring Him. Mrs. Neely said, "You should give something valuable to Jesus, something you wanted for yourself, but could give to Him." She also said, that God gave us His only son and we needed to think not only about what special gift we would give, but why. Little John wondered, "If Jesus asked for too much stuff, maybe that"s why God gave Him away. So, why are we giving Him more stuff?"

     When John got home from church that afternoon, he asked his mom, "Why did God give His Son to us? Did He not want Him anymore because He asked for too much stuff?" Mom got a big smile on her face and said, "No son; He gave His only Son to save the world, that whoever believes in Jesus and believes that He died for their sins, then they would not die but live with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in Heaven for ever and ever." Mom knew a lot about the Bible. Mom and Dad had even gone to church before times had gotten hard and Dad and she had to work more hours. She read Little John the story about Jesus in the manger. John got so excited about getting Jesus a special gift. He asked Mom, if they would come with him to church and she said they couldn"t come because they both worked on Sundays.

      The play was now only two weeks away and John still couldn"t figure out what to give Jesus for His birthday. Some of the other children had toys they were giving away and other kids said they were giving Him some of their allowance money. Mykle had decided to give Jesus one of his own Christmas presents. But John had nothing. There was no extra money to buy anything for Christmas. Mom had said that everyone in the family was only getting socks and underwear because that was what they needed and there was no more money to buy anything else. "Maybe things will be better next year," sighed Mom.

      The Christmas tree didn"t have very much on it either. They had used the outside papers from the old food cans that Dad had collected to make ornaments. Mom took the labels off the cans and together Mom and Little John cut them into strips and used powered milk with a little water to make a paste. They put together a colorful linked chain to hang around the tree. Other ornaments were made from pine cones they had collected from under the trees outside. They also put string on the tree that his Dad had found at the dump and hung old tin foil to look like fancy ornaments. Together, Mom and John made their Christmas tree look beautiful.

      That night John asked his mom what she thought he should give Jesus for His birthday. She answered, "Little John, Jesus would love anything that you want to give to Him. I"m sure you will come up with something." As she left the room she said, "...and if you come with nothing but love, He will love that too." She also told John that she and Dad would be able to attend the Christmas play after all since they didn"t have to work on Sunday nights. John was so excited!

My Friend Debbie      Little John knew why his Mom thought Jesus would be happy with just love. On her birthday, when he asked her what she wanted, she would always say, "Just give me love." But how would little John wrap up love? Would he go hug baby Jesus on the stage, or just say out loud, "I Love you Jesus?" It was then that he remembered the lessons he had learned in church. Jesus wants us to give our hearts to Him. John found an old brown grocery bag next to the refrigerator and got out a crayon and drew himself a big red heart. He cut it out and glued on pieces of bark from a pine tree, three pop bottle caps, and a couple of pieces of his own hair so that Jesus would know it was from him. He also put a couple of Lisa"s hairs on it as well. She cried a little, but he kissed her and shushed her till she started to smile.

      It was now two days before the play and John still wanted to give something more to Jesus. He knew that if it were his birthday, he would want a cake. Since Little John had no money, he decided to make a mud cake, like he and Mom sometimes made. He went to the kitchen and got one of his mom"s coffee cups. Then he went outside to collect the dirt, water, and leaves. Back inside, John got a little oatmeal from Mom"s pantry and made the mud cake. He used pine needles that stuck out the top for candles. He didn"t know how old Jesus was though. "He must be old," thought John. Little John contemplated and then determined that maybe Jesus was twenty-nine years old. So, he put twenty-nine pine needles on the cake. John put it outside to dry because he didn"t want his mom and dad to know what he was giving Jesus until the night of the play.

      Sunday night came and the play was a big success. It was now time for the children to give their gifts to Jesus. Mom and Dad were sitting in the back, but she let Little John know they were there by waving her handkerchief as he was looking around to find them in the audience. Dad and Mom had big smiles on their faces. The program started and, one by one, the children gave their presents to baby Jesus. They even said a little about what they had decided to give Him and why. One little girl said her mom made her give her make-up set. Another little boy was too shy to say anything, but he had given his allowance. Still another boy gave Jesus some goodies--"real" goodies.

My Friend Debbie       Little John felt ashamed that his cake was not a "real" cake and he didn"t want to embarrass his Mom and Dad. He told Mrs. Neely that he didn"t want to go out there and give his gift. She said that Jesus would love anything John had to give but if he was scared, she would go with him. Little John said, "Okay, but can you hold my hand?" With a smile on her face, she took him by the hand and led him out on stage. He carried his presents in a paper bag. Mrs. Neely opened the bag and pulled out the birthday cake and said, "John has made this beautiful birthday cake for Jesus with his own hands and this beautiful red heart as well." She put the microphone to John"s mouth and asked him if he wanted to say anything. John spoke in a little scared voice, "This is my heart, I"m giving it to Jesus, and my baby sister Lisa"s too. See, here is her hair." The whole audience broke out in applause and cheer.

      Following the play a lot of people came up to Little John and said he had given the best gifts of all. Mom and Dad were very proud of their little-man. Mom had tears rolling down her face and Dad kept hugging John, smiling and winking at him. Mykle and John went off to play and Mrs. Messer and her husband went to talk with John"s parents. They told them they had never seen such a beautiful cake, and that John had given the best gifts of all.

      After New Years, Mom and Dad started attending church again. The more they went, the more they made new friends, just like John had. Dad got a new job working at the church, keeping up with the building and the grounds. He is also going back to school to become an accountant. Mom still does laundry, but not as much as she used to. Lisa is three years old now and gets into John"s stuff all the time. John is ten years old and he loves his house, his church, his family, and his Jesus.


Copyright © 2008-2015 Jo Treinen

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