Glenda's Gift of Love
Diana Henderson

As the holidays approached, Glenda became more and more worried. It had been a difficult year for her family, and she hadn’t been able to save enough money for gifts.  It seemed that every penny went to pay the rent and put food on the table.

She sank down in the faded blue easy chair beside her bed and looked out at the barren landscape beyond her window.  The trees outside the apartment seemed as gray and lifeless as the buildings themselves.  Only a few dead leaves dangled precariously, holding onto the last thread of life amidst the December chill.  Glenda’s mood was as cheerless as the landscape, and her bones were weary from cold weather and hard work.

Her six-year-old, Michael, came bouncing into the room with the ceaseless energy of youth.  He picked a spot on his mother’s lap and fell into her arms.

“What’s the matter, Mama?” he asked looking at her with innocent brown eyes. “Don’t you feel good?”

“Oh, I’m okay,” Glenda assured him with a hug. “I’m always better when you’re around.”

In truth, he was both her greatest joy and her deepest sorrow now.  She couldn’t look into those eyes without wishing she could give him the world, and she had so little to offer.  There wouldn’t even be a tree this year, but somehow she would manage to make their holiday special.  She’d find a way.  She had to.

After dinner that night, Glenda left Michael and his sister Kimberly with their neighbor’s teenage daughter and took the bus to the mall.  She was determined to find some small gift for her children.

This close to the holidays, the crowded mall was awash with human beings, but somehow Glenda felt a lack of humanity in it all.  The glitter and the noise could not touch her heart the way Michael and Kimberly did.  They were the precious jewels in her life.  Glenda chose two small gifts for each of her children, but these were nothing, she thought.  She should be able to offer them so much more.

Time passed quickly amid the bustling crowd, and soon she had to catch the last bus home.  She was just leaving the mall when a bright sparkle of gold all alone in a store window caught her eye.  She walked to the small display window and gazed into the case, where a single shining star twirled on the end of a golden string.  The star had many points and captured the light from every direction.  How beautiful it would look on a tree, Glenda thought.  But even if she could afford the star, she had no tree to put it on.  Still, she could hardly tear herself away from the golden star that seemed to glow with reflected light.  As she walked out the doors of the mall, she took one look back at the display window, and the touch of golden light beckoned her once more.

She turned her back and went outside, a swish of cold air hitting her face.  She strode swiftly to the bus stop trying to fend off the chill.  Instinctively, she looked up into the night sky.  Stars twinkled faintly in the wash of light from the street lamps.  Wind blew in her eyes and made them tear so that the twinkling stars appeared blurred and more pointed.  She could almost imagine the sparkling star in the window if she squinted hard.

“Such jewels,” she said, and then thought of her children. “My very own jewels,” Glenda whispered to herself.  “The stars in my life.”
As she spoke these words, Glenda realized what she had to do.  That night, after her children went to sleep, she created her own special presents for them.  All she needed was the gold foil wrapping paper her friend Pam had given her, an old cardboard box, paper, pen, a pair of scissors and some glue.

When her children awakened on Christmas morning, Glenda smiled a secret smile, but she also worried that they might not understand the gifts she offered them.  At eight and six, they might think this gift was silly or worthless.  But it was too late now.

Michael opened his first box and found a gold star inside with a message written on it.  “What a pretty star, Mama.  It says, ‘You are my. . .”’  He sounded out the words slowly and then stumbled on the last one.

“. . Jewel,” his sister offered, helping him read the unknown word.  Kim opened a gift next, and it read:  “You are my shining star.”

They opened one small box after another to find golden stars inside.  On each, their mother had written her words of love and praise. “You make me so proud,” one star said.  “You make me smile,” said another, and for each child was a star that read: “I will always love you.”

To Glenda’s amazement, her children opened each box eagerly—anxious to see what special words their mother had given them.  They collected the stars with delight—each making certain that he or she had as many stars as the other one.  The small gifts purchased from the mall got lost in the joy over stars of love from their mother.

And Glenda finally realized what she should have known all along:  A gift of love and praise is more valuable than the most expensive present she could buy.

© 1993 Lillian D. Henderson

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