The Block Island Times

Rhymes to Reason: The Christmas gift

Jan 03, 2012

As we look back on the holiday season, it’s a good moment to reflect that we can make a difference as parents in teaching children the importance of gracious giving and receiving. This is important in the development of their social skills.

The kindest woman I’ve ever known was my mother. She was a teacher for 37 years, and many stories from her classroom came home to our dinner table.

In the 50s and 60s, mentally challenged children were mainstreamed in the classroom. My mother was a third grade teacher at the time. It was almost Christmas break and the students then were allowed to celebrate the Christmas holiday in school. Many of the children would bring gifts for their teachers. My mother thought no gifts should be opened in the school so the children wouldn’t make comparisons. But she made one exception.

A mentally challenged child in her class asked her to open his gift to her and had waited until all the children had left the classroom. It was a small box wrapped haphazardly in newspaper and tied with a string.

Inside was cotton, all balled up and shrouding... a dead mouse. Surprise! Being my mother, she saw the child’s joy at what he had given her and said “Thank you, Jimmy. What made you decide on this gift?”

Jimmy replied that he “wanted to give her something that he thought was nice and he wanted her to have something that she didn’t have.” She gave him a hug. Then she put her teacher hat on and told him how kind he was and it was the most unique gift she had ever received. She explained to Jimmy that the mouse should stay in the box and that the box had to be buried because it was now a Christmas gift that had to be given to God.

Jimmy was excited and agreed that God would probably love it. He made the mouse, Jimmy said, and He must need the mouse in heaven for all the children.

Then mom told Jimmy that he was a special gift to his parents, that they were truly blessed and that most special children were kinder than the average person. They might not always understand everything in life, but they were still given the gifts of caring and kindness and are beloved.

I have had many mentally and physically challenged children in my classroom. I have always remembered my mother’s comments, and have always considered them gifts to me from God so I could help educate and love them. Such children help us all to learn to give and receive the gifts of friendship and acceptance.

‘Till the next time….

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