Who Would Know?

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Who Would Know?

Paul was working late. Actually it was only 4:00 P.M. Normally he’d still have an hour and a half left before quitting time. But today was Christmas Eve, and as was the tradition of his company, everyone had worked until noon, had the annual Christmas party, and then closed the office at 2:00. It was a gift from the guys upstairs. Normally at five minutes after two “not a creature would be stirring.” Employees would be on their way for some last-minute shopping at the mall – a few errands before joining the family to celebrate. The bulk of their business was conducted online, but the company had received an unusual amount of orders in the mail that day. That meant that there were thousands of dollars worth of credit card orders and checks that needed to be posted. Paul figured it would be better this way. If he processed the orders now, he wouldn’t have a mountain of work facing him when he came back to work the day after Christmas. Besides, he had no errands to run or last-minute shopping to do, because both would require money. And they had no money. He had already prepared his kids for the reality that it was going to be a bleak Christmas. Normally the tree would be surrounded by piles of presents. But a normal Christmas requires a normal year leading up to it, and it had been anything but a normal year. His wife had undergone surgery; then complications set in. His SUV lost its transmission. His oldest daughter was fitted for braces and his youngest was fitted with temporary teeth to replace the ones she lost when she took a foul ball at the Pirates’ game. The roof finally demanded replacement, and the pecan tree smashed the storage shed during a July thunderstorm. He had insurance, but it didn’t cover everything. He made a ecent salary if nothing unforeseen happened. But a family of six is a parade of unforeseen events. On top of this, the economy had experienced a global meltdown. It had been a merciless year. Christmas carols played from a radio at the other end of the office. It was a lonely serenade as Paul poured over the envelopes on his desk. The money orders and checks ranged from $250 to $1500. There were over a hundred of them. “They’re going to be busy when we get back from Christmas holiday”, he thought about the guys in shipping. His letter opener slit open another envelope and his fingers moved involuntarily to separate the order form from the check. But this time he felt the distinct texture of cash. Six, fresh $100 bills. He fanned them in his hand to count them again. Some guy from Milwaukee had rounded up his $589.88 order and scribbled on a post-it note the instruction,“Keep the change.” They rarely got cash in the mail, mainly because they sold high-ticket items. Few people were willing to risk large sums. The reasons were obvious. And the scenario Paul found himself in was exactly why you weren’t supposed to ever send cash. Fact: No one was looking over his shoulder. Fact: He could dispose of the order form and claim it was never received. Fact: He wasn’t the only one that processed the orders. If an investigation followed, it would have to scrutinize four other people. Fact: That $600 could buy all of the gifts his kids wanted and still leave enough to buy a decent bottle of perfume for his wife and replace his worn-out robe. Fact: The stores were open until 7:00. He still had enough time. But his conscience leaned those thoughts against the backdrop of a lifetime of integrity. His parents had taught him to take the high road and he was endeavoring to teach his kids the same lesson. The lure of the easy could not overcome the call of the right. In the solitude of his abandoned office, He made the courageous and moral choice to enjoy an affordable Christmas rather than endure a counterfeit one. That $600 spent the Christmas holiday locked in the company safe along with the rest of the orders. That night, Paul slept with a clean conscience and arose the next morning to exchange homemade gifts and dollar store surprises with his children. The greatest gift he gave them, however, wasn’t wrapped in bright paper or bound with ribbons. It was wearing a worn out robe and thatched with graying hair. It was his consistent habit of integrity that would give his young kids the best chance of finding courage when facing their own temptations in the future. Tough times call for strong character. Strong character doesn’t scrimp on what really matters even if the sacrifice seems high. Thank goodness, God didn’t take the easy way out when it came to the cost of our redemption.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Rom.8:32

This Christmas as you gather with those you love to give gifts, consider the legacy you are leaving in the hearts of each of them. And celebrate the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Adapted from Home Grown Heroes pp. 87-90 by Tim Kimmel © Copyright 2008 Dr. Tim Kimmel and Family Matters®

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