There are heartwarming Christmas stories, and there are even scary stories shared about the Christmas season. Sometimes these stories are tales of triumph over great odds, or may tell of a special person showing up at just the right time, with the right message; offering a word of encouragement. And then, there is this story: a little vignette about a boy and his gingerbread toy.
This boy was known simply as David: a strapping 65 pound, seven year old child whose family included his mom, dad, and big sister Brandy. Many afternoons David would be found complaining of boredom even though he was surrounded by lush streams and woods to explore; as well as a bedroom filled with the latest and best toys.
One day Brandy was making gingerbread cookies and told David he would have to wait until they were cool before he could sample them. David was anxiously watching the clock tick away the minutes until he could finally taste one of the little brown men.
When Brandy finally announced that the gingerbread men were ready for sampling, David came bounding down the hallway toward the kitchen at top speed, swinging open the saloon- style wooden door. He came face to face with his sister. She was standing in her best traffic officer stance, holding up her left hand and commanding, “Stop!” Then, she continued, “You will have to wash your hands before you touch these cookies.” David’s entire countenance changed. He looked like he had just lost his best friend. He paused, walked over to the kitchen sink, and turned on the cold water faucet. “Use soap, mister!” Brandy instructed. David mumbled something under his breath, just low enough that his sister was not able to discern his comments.
He was ready to dive into the freshly baked cookies at any cost. He chose the biggest gingerbread man on the platter and took a big bite completely removing the gingerbread man’s head. Never actually tasting a gingerbread cookie before, David expected it would be warm and chewy and sweet like a chocolate chip cookie. However, David was quite shocked by the odd taste in his mouth. “I don’t think I like gingerbread!” David thought to himself. Brandy asked how he liked it. He said, “Not my favorite!”
David and Brandy had a lot of fun that day baking the cookies and decorating them. The gingerbread men, even though they came out of the same mold, were not identical. Some had a thicker body, while others had skinny arms. A couple even had funny- shaped heads. When David was looking at them, he realized they were different from each other, but they were similar in other ways much like his friends from school. David liked the cookies so much that he and Brandy began playing with a couple of them.
The time was fast approaching when Brandy would have to leave once again for college. David said, “I have an idea. Let’s ask Dad to make a toy out of our gingerbread men, and then we can play with them all the time.
Dad went to the garage, found some lacquer, and painted the gingerbread men. He let them dry and harden. He warned David against eating them because the lacquer would make him very sick. Brandy and David played one more time with the gingerbread men their dad made for them. Then, it was time for Brandy to leave.
A few days went by, David had played with his gingerbread toy and pretended to be a cowboy, secret agent, and a super hero, all the while, he, had his trusty side kick “Ginger Bread Man.”
One day while playing in the family den and watching Christmas specials on TV; a news teaser came on and told of children who had no toys and were living in a homeless shelter. David stopped playing long enough to pay attention to what the newscaster was saying. He thought, “I wonder what I can do to help!” David turned to his family who was watching with him; he asked if he could help somehow. Mom and Dad who sometimes helped at the local homeless shelter thought about it. They decided he was old enough to lend a hand.
The next Saturday, David and his family headed for the shelter. As they were walking out the door, David turned back toward his room. He had to go and get his gingerbread toy because it went everywhere with him. When he got to the homeless shelter with his parents, he wasn’t sure what to expect. David, felt like a “fish out of water.” This was a totally different world than he was used to. He had grown up in a home where both parents loved and cared for him and his sister. Here, there were single men, single women, married couples, and children all living in one place.
Some children perceive things differently than do adults. David was one of these children. He saw little Emily sitting across the room from him. She was clinging to a little 4″ tall rag doll that looked like a piece of cloth that someone had discarded. David could see the little girl was sad. Sensing that something was wrong he sauntered over to her and mused, “How’s it going?” Emily, looked up briefly to see David’s sheepish grin and said, “I miss my mom.” “Where is she?” David questioned.
“Mom told me, ‘you stay right here till I get back!’ and I have been waiting for 2 whole days; she hasn’t come back yet!” chimed Emily. David felt very sorry for her and wondered how he would feel if that happened to him.
“I know what I will do!” proclaimed David. He was so exited, he forgot, he was not by himself. Everyone in the shelter could hear. David didn’t care because he knew what had to be done. David also knew he didn’t have much time; Christmas was just 12 days away.
David asked his dad if he had any lacquer left in the garage. His dad told him he had plenty left. “What do you need it for?” Dad asked. “I want to make more gingerbread toys!” David replied. His dad, curious as to why he wanted more asked him, “What are you going to do with more gingerbread toys?” “I want to give them to the kids at the shelter.” David exclaimed! His dad was so proud of his little man thinking of others. It was something that he wanted to instill in his son. A servant heart; caring about others.
David had almost 2 dozen cookies baked; it was time to decorate them. He thought for a moment then decided to put a word or two on the front of each cookie. He could then tell to whom it would be given. He didn’t know the names of the people in the shelter. David had to come up with some way to identify them. He decided that nicknames would be best. How do you come up with nicknames for people you didn’t even know? He came up with an unusual idea. David took an attribute of the person he was describing and added a name that rhymed with it. Like, Bouncing Bobby for the little boy who bobbed up and down when he walked. He decided on Silly Sally for the little girl who giggled a lot. David did his best to remember each and every person he saw at the shelter.
As he was preparing the cookies for his dad to coat them with lacquer, David had another thought, “I wonder if I should make some for the adults at the shelter. What would they do with a gingerbread toy?” David puzzled. He decided, giving one to the adults was a fine idea. Naming the cookies for the adults was not as easy as he thought it would be. Not too much later, David had created names for the remaining Gingerbread toys. He remembered a man who wouldn’t move from the doorway of the shelter. He called him Stubborn Stan. Dancing Donna was the lady who when any song came on the radio would dance around the shelter.
Dad finished up the toys made out of the gingerbread men. He brought them out of the garage and showed them to David. He was very excited that the toys were ready for him to take to the shelter.
David pushed on the heavy wooden door with the old brass handles. The cowbell on the inside bar clanged as the door creaked open. As if a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, the residents of the homeless shelter paused what ever activity they were doing to gaze at the little boy carrying a box with a tin foil lining. “I brought some presents for everyone!” announced David. He started to hand out the gifts to the residents. When they all had received their presents, the men and women of the shelter were puzzled at the gingerbread toys they received.
David told them, “The gingerbread toys won’t walk or talk or even bend. What they will do is keep you company when you have no one else.”
A seven year old may not have the finances to improve the lives of people; however, he does have the ability to give of himself. David knew that he had to do something however small to help someone have a better Christmas.
David didn’t save the world from hunger, or prevent a tragic accident from taking place. All he did was, give a piece of his heart away to complete strangers. This is what Christmas is all about!