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The Christmas Present

     Not all Christmas presents come at Christmas time. Not all Christmas presents come from Santa. And not all Christmas presents come from stores or the Internet.

     This particular Christmas present arrived early in May, two years ago. I remember the date, because it was my birthday. We were driving home from a family party and my son Paul suggested we stop to visit an old friend. We’d been visiting her and her husband more often lately, because she couldn’t go out any more. She had emphysema.

     It was here, at our friends’ house, that the present arrived. It wasn’t for me and it wasn’t a birthday present. It was what you might call an “out-of-season” Christmas present.

     A lot of Christmas presents are set aside or used up or forgotten by mid-January. Some are brought out for special occasions during the year – like when the giver is about to arrive at your front door.

     Some gifts are cherished and set on a shelf to be admired and to evoke memories of a special time or a special person. Others are set right to work, or taken out to play the day after Christmas.

     But this gift – this particular Christmas present - is handled every day, from morning to night, and at night it stands at the bedside, ready for action. This gift is unique – a spur-of-the-moment gift that will last a lifetime. And you might say my son fell into it.

     Because that’s exactly what happened. Paul, because of a disability he’s had since birth, has less-than-perfect balance. On that day, he left his canes in the car and used my arm for support. As we walked up the steep driveway, I looked away for a moment and reached back to shut the gate. Paul and I went in opposite directions – which caused him to fall. Paul’s pretty good at falling, so he wasn’t hurt at all. He was just getting up when our friend’s husband came out of the house, carrying a shiny aluminum frame walker – one of those you often see these days. He placed it in front of Paul.

     “Paul, see how this works,” he said.

     Over the past few years, Paul had begun to lose confidence in his walking canes. This caused him to lean more heavily upon them, which caused them to slip out from under him more often. So he stopped walking as much. And put on a few extra pounds. Which caused the canes to slip out from under even more frequently.

     Paul took that aluminum walker and scooted up the driveway and across the walk to the front door. I couldn’t believe my eyes!

     We visited our friends and got ready to leave. But before we could get away, our friend’s husband placed the walker in front of Paul once again.

     “Why don’t you keep that?” he said. “We have two of them and Betty only needs one. It’ll just sit here if you don’t take it.”

     After the usual, “Oh no, we couldn’ts” and his continuing insistence, we accepted. As we drove home, Paul asked me to let him out at the end of our long, concrete driveway. He couldn’t wait to try his new walker.

     That was two years ago. Paul – a much slimmer Paul - remembers the day, the hour, the minute, he received his gift.

     It wasn’t what most people would want for Christmas. It wasn’t a jet ski or a scooter or a computer game. It was – to Paul – freedom.

     “I’m back!” he said that day. “I can walk again!”

     Christmas is in the heart, and it doesn’t always happen on December 25th.

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