This post if by Joe Stephens
Every new school year, I have this crazy idea in my head that I’m not going to get so attached to my kids. I’m going to do my job and care for them like I should, but I’m not going to fall in love with them and let them break my heart on the last day. And then, somewhere along the lines, something happens to remind me I’m just kidding myself. It’s often around Christmas time. This year was no exception.
As I’ve written in a previous entry, we do a gift of words oral presentation in the days before Christmas break. Well, this year, a bunch of choir kids decided to do something special since our exchange coincided with the annual choir concert. Several are in my fourth period, but even some who weren’t got permission from their teachers to get out of class long enough to meet with us in the auditorium. They sang “Grownup Christmas List,” one of my favorites since I first heard Amy Grant sing it in the 1990s. As they sang and I, being a big cry-baby, teared up, I realized that the privilege of loving these kids is one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for. These kids open their hearts to me, loving me through the happy and the sad. One student, a future famous graphic artist, drew a picture of me as a gift. I was surrounded by Christmas packages and was holding a coffee mug (they know my obsession with coffee). On the mug was printed “#1 Dad.” When I questioned that, Lucas said, “You’re just like a dad to all of us.” Wow. What a gift.
My wishes for Christmas no longer have anything to do with things I can receive. And what I do receive matters way more to me because of who gives it to me than what it is. Last night after Christmas Eve service at church, my close friends (close friends doesn’t suffice–these people are family to me) the Delgados invited me over to their house, which is literally next door to the church. They gave me a small package in green in red wrapping paper. I opened it to find a pair of socks. That might seem like a small gift, but, first, it wasn’t just any pair of socks. They were nerd socks, covered with 1960s Batman-style sound effects, like “Pow!” and “Kabam!” Second, they were part of a set of socks that they’d gotten for the other members of our nerd group. These socks were special because they came from my brother and sister in Christ and also because they meant I was part of their inner circle. A close-knit group of people that mean the world to each other. What better gift could I ask for?
My wish for this Christmas is that, to paraphrase the lyrics of the song, each and every person who reads this blog will find a life that is not torn apart, that right would always win in your life, that you will always be able to find a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and that love would never end in your heart.
If we could all get that under our tree, I can’t imagine it would matter what else we got.
I would love to put in a video of the choir singing the song, but, as of now, no one has uploaded it to YouTube, so I’ll settle for the lovely Amy Grant version. Click here to see it.
Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.
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