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December 2020- January 2021

Passing the Faith


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“Eric, do you know what you want for Christmas this year?”

My answer came without hesitation: “Yes, ma’am! Let me show you.”

I darted off to the living room and returned with a well-worn Sears Christmas Wish Book. Flipping through the dog-eared pages, I found the one I wanted and laid it out before my aunt with a proud flourish.

“There...I want that!” I exclaimed, pointing to an “authentic, NFL-styled football uniform, complete with pants, pads, and helmet.” The equipment splashed garishly across the spread, prominently featuring professional logos and personalities. In typical six-year-old fashion, I chattered excitedly about how much I loved football, and how great I would look in a Miami Dolphins uniform. Like a real pro.

Suddenly, in mid-sentence, from the corner of my eye, I glimpsed my mother’s face. She had that look. The Mom look. You know the one: Cookie Monster’s angry face, Carol Brady’s raised eyebrow, and Superman’s burning eye lasers, all wrapped up in one. The look carried one simple message: stop talking. Now!

I hushed. But I didn’t understand. My aunt had asked a question. I answered truthfully. Where had I gone wrong? Hurt and confused, I slipped away to my bedroom for the rest of the Thanksgiving family gathering.

After everyone left, Mom found me sulking behind my latest Hardy Boys book. She quietly shared some simple facts that weren’t so obvious to a six-year-old. As a single lady, my Aunt Janie was on a tight income, struggling to make ends meet, and without the means to buy extravagant gifts. She was also generous, to a fault. “And so, I didn’t want her to feel obligated to buy that expensive uniform,” Mom concluded with a sigh. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but you would have made her feel guilty over something she can’t afford to buy right now.”

I thought I understood. But, somehow, I felt even worse.

A few weeks later, when we visited my aunt’s home on Christmas afternoon, she met me at the door with a perfectly wrapped present and an enormous smile. Nervous, I glanced cautiously at my mom, and she nodded approval. I tore into the wrapping paper with enthusiasm and found, to my delight, a genuine leather Spalding football, official NFL size and weight. A treasure! Better than any old uniform. I threw my arms around Aunt Janie, thanked her, and pulled my dad outside to play catch until dinner.

I learned an important lesson that Christmas: the true worth of any gift is found in what it cost the giver, not the value of the gift. As strange as it sounds, that sacrificial gift from my aunt helps me understand the depth of meaning when I read “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). The ultimate Gift cost the Giver everything.

Today, that football holds a place of honor in my memory. And, though she passed many years ago, I will always be grateful to Aunt Janie for teaching me the true value of a gift.

About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Email:




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