Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Coveted Life Saver Story Book

It was the early 1970's. For several years, shortly after Thanksgiving, as the teacher announced the great Christmas gift exchange, visions of Life Saver Story books began to dance through my head.

I pictured myself holding the rectangular, firm cardboard book between my hands and opening it up, setting my star-struck eyes on the delightful contents.  I imagined the neat rows of side-by-side Life Savers, in their colorful packages, stacked one on top of the other.  And if I really focused, I could even smell the cherry, lime and orate scents of the individual Life Savers, as my mouth watered.  Ahhh. Sigh.

I don't what exactly what it was about the wonder of rolls of Life Savers, bound in a book, but all I knew is that it was the greatest gift garnered at the grace school Christmas gift exchange.  At least, it was for me.  How sweet it would be to have my very own supply of Life Savers to relish in my room, throughout the Christmas season!

Here's how the gift exchange worked.

Each student brought in a gift with their name scratched in the 'FROM' space, leaving the 'TO' space specifying if it was to a girl, if you were a girl, or a boy, if you were a boy.  We didn't pick names, but rather were to buy a generic gift -- a gift everyone would like.  I suppose the teacher did it this way to prevent someone from getting a downer of a gift if someone who didn't like them, picked their name.

The gifts were brought in the week of the Christmas party, and placed under the small tree in our classroom.  Slowly but surely, brightly colored packages of all sorts accumulated under the tree, waiting for the big day.

I knew the shape, the size, the detailed dimensions.  And I didn't have to imagine smelling effervescent fruity scents; I was pretty sure I could smell them, through any thickness of wrapping paper, as the gift entered the classroom.  I kept a very close eye on the tree and it's growing pile of gifts. I watched to see who brought what and hoped beyond hope that I'd be the lucky recipient of the Life Saver Story Book.  Spotting more than one of the coveted cardboard books under the tree added to my joy, and some years, the odds seemed to be in my favor.

On the day of the party, the teacher sent us out for recess, right before the celebration. Oh, how the excitement mounted, as we stood frozen outside on the playground, waiting and wondering.

I remember coming in, chilled with goose bumps percolating beneath my skin.  I'm not sure if they were from the cold or my eager anticipation that it would be my special day.

I didn't care about the cookies or the Kool-Aid, all I wanted to know was -- would this be my year to get the Life Saver Story Book? Finally?

I slipped off my coat and held my breath as I slowly walked through the door, savoring every moment. While were were out, I knew the teacher would have set a present on each of our desks.  I don't know why she did it that way, other than maybe she didn't have to deal with kids trying to influence her or maybe there were never quite enough gifts, so she could pull a few extras out of her desk drawer, to cover for the ones who couldn't afford to participate that year. No student left behind when it came to the Christmas party gift exchange.

I tried to contain my excitement, while trying to brace myself for disappointment.

Rounding the corner of the door frame, my eyes drifted across the room and settled on my desk.

And each year, my heart fell.

Resting on my desk was a different gift than I imagined -- a smaller one or a bigger one or a softly wrapped, oddly shaped package.  And each year, I can remember forcing a smile, sitting down and opening the gift that was chosen for me, by my teacher.

I didn't want to hurt any one's feelings, surely not the person who picked out what was on my desk, or possibly offend their mother, who more than likely was the one who went to the store and picked it out.

I tried not to look around the room to see who got the gift I wanted. I tried hard not to be jealous; it was really hard.

I never did get the Lifesaver Story Book. I'm not complaining or dwelling on dashed dreams of the past.  Really, I've gotten over it, but every year when I see them on the store shelves I think of those days when the great gift exchange consumed my Christmas thoughts and my heart had to find contentment in what I was given.

I some ways, it's not so different today.  We hope for one thing, and sometimes, get another.  My heart no longer is set on material things, but rather less tangible, more valuable desires, like peace and joy and relief from stress. And some days, I still sit down and try and smile seeking to find contentment in what the Lord has given.

The reality is that we may not always receive the things we want at Christmas, but we have been given the most precious gift of all -- Jesus.  My heart still yearns, but it now finds restful satisfaction in Him -- let's face it, the One and Only Life Saver, in the "sweetest story ever told."

What did you wish for as a child?


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