A RALPH KIND OF CHRISTMAS

9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9 

When I think back on my memorable Christmas stories, I don’t think about any of the personal stories in my life, the gifts, meals, decorations.  Instead I remember a story that was told at a senior adult Christmas party many years ago.  

I can’t begin to count the number of Christmas parties that Randy and I have shared with church family.  One party has stood out in my mind for many years.  It began like all of the others with a holiday meal, but instead of Secret Santa, everyone went around the table and told of their most memorable Christmas.  There were many sweet and touching stories that were shared, until we got to Ralph.

Ralph began his story by telling of growing up during the Great Depression in rural Louisiana.  Ralph’s father had abandoned Ralph, his mother, twin brother and sister during the depression.  Ralph’s prayer for this particular Christmas, wasn’t about toys or games, instead it was food for the table.  It was hard to imagine when the Christmas “miracle” happened.  One night there came a knock on the door.  It was a Baptist ministry delivering shoe boxes to needy families in the community.  Ralph couldn’t believe the items that were delivered to his family.  A few oranges, socks and a pair of shoes!  Not long after the people making the delivery had left, there came a second knock on the door.  It was the Baptist ministry asking for the box back!  It was meant for a different family.  I couldn’t imagine how devastated they all felt.

Now for the rest of the story.

Ralph went on to serve in World War II (there was a story to go with that too, but for another time).  He graduated college with an engineering degree and climbed the corporate ladder.  He was a brilliant, driven and very successful man.  When Ralph was in his fifties, he was considered for the presidency of a local international corporation.  The job was given to another candidate.   The company, realizing that Ralph might not stay on and not wanting him to join the competition, offered Ralph a full retirement with all of the salary and benefits that would be offered as if he were working every day.  Of course he took the offer.  Ralph determined at that time that he would spend his time and money on three things.  One third on family, they had often sacrificed for his career, one third to the church and one third to widows and orphans.

During his retirement Ralph managed the retirement savings of many widows.  This allowed them to live without financial worries during the latter days of their lives.  He would scour the newspapers each day, looking for a story where God would burden his heart to help a child or family in need.  It will never be known the degree of his generosity to those who had suffered loss or poverty.  Ralph also kept his pledge to serve his family and church.

When I think of the Christmas memory that Ralph shared that night, I could think of the many directions that Ralph’s life could have taken.  He could have succumbed to his condition and lived an impoverished life forever, he could have become bitter toward God and sought a life dedicated to temporal things or he could have done what he ended up doing.  God used that moment to open Ralph’s eyes to the needs of others and gave him the success to meet the needs of numerous widows and strangers.

God gave us all the greatest gift at Christmas.  A gift that can never be taken away once it is accepted.  That gift is Jesus.  Each year I am reminded, what will I do with the gift, hoard it in a secure manner devoted to surrounding myself with like minded people, or will I pray and search for those that God intends for me to share His blessing, not the story of Ralph, but the story of Jesus.  Merry Christmas.                      

~ Sandra Overstreet