It was December 24, 1984.
We were broke, and I mustered enough money to take the family out to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for a Christmas Eve celebration. Back then, you could get a 10-piece dinner meal for under $10, and with a family of four, it didn’t last long.
My wife was pregnant with our first-born son who was due in April, and our daughters were nine and 16 months. My beautiful wife Tania was staying home to raise our children and I had started a new job. We couldn’t rub two dimes together, so there was no live Christmas tree or stockings in our tiny apartment.
Years earlier, Tania had bought what we call a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.” It stood all of two feet and barely held any Christmas bulbs or lights. It was all we had, and even today we put it up every Christmas to remind us of the many blessings that God has given us over the years.
At KFC, there were only two people working before the store was to close at 6 p.m. The manager saw our family and asked us how things were going. We smiled and said all right, but the look in our children’s eyes said it all. Just before we left, he said, “Wait a minute.” Behind the counter were two big stockings filled with all kinds of presents and candies for Christmas. He smiled and said, “I was going to take it home for the holidays, but it’s yours.”
Those gifts that we laid under our little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree were among the greatest presents we have ever received. That spring, after the cold and snowy winter, we went to thank the man who had helped our small family so much, but he wasn’t there. In fact, nobody in the store remembered him. It was as if he had just disappeared. To this day, my wife believes that this kind black man could have been an angel. I only know that his generosity helped us to experience the joy of Christmas.
As the years go by, we still think of that man, a complete stranger, and how he helped us. Because of him, around this time of year, we look for others who need help with food, clothing, money or just some seasonal loving. We put up the old Charlie Brown Christmas Tree every year regardless of whether we have a live Christmas tree. God is good, and it’s a reminder to always thank Him for the blessings He’s given us.
I understand that life can be cruel (just look at the latest headlines) or disappointing at times. I also have witnessed how, if we are willing to give our difficulties and tragedies over to God, good can come from it. Even though his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, Joseph became powerful and was able to save the people of Israel. He later told his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
The other day, a friend of mine was on the way to a meeting in Summerville and said he was late because he almost had a life-threatening accident. In fact, he said he couldn’t believe that his car somehow missed hitting a vehicle that had cut him off. I said I believed it, and asked, “Why do you think it didn’t happen?” He pondered for a minute and said, “Divine intervention.”
Every day, Jesus works miracles in our lives. A lot of times we’re just too busy to recognize them. This Christmas, our little tree will remind our family, once again, to recognize the gift that has been given to us and to share it with others.
Tres Kerns is a former Christian radio talk show host who lives in the Charleston area. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: December 24, 2012