The Giving Quilt
by Chris Clark
Christmastime,with eleven children, and in the best of circumstances, has proven to always be a challenge but one we have tried to meet with creativity and joyful expectation. Some years have been harder than others--and some have been more rewarding than others. The years we have been able to involve our children in projects and "secrets" have been more meaningful and fun for all of us. We have always tried to teach our children that giving is far more in keeping with the Christmas spirit than getting something but occasionally we have definitely been on the receiving end far more than the giving end. Here is the story of one of those years.
We have a child who was born with Spina Bifida in 1995. The precarious nature of the disease plays itself out within the first two or three years. The prognosis cannot be determined at birth and with the medical advances being made every year, hope carries the family through. We entered Primary Children's Medical Center, in Salt Lake City, Utah in August of 1997 to do a simple procedure that was supposed to keep us there only three or four days at the most. Due to some complications, that three day stay turned into five months. Our son ended up having eight surgeries in the following six weeks. I had ten other children, with seven still living home. One of them was pre-school age. Over those months, my children took turns missing school to stay home with their little sister while my husband worked. About a month after the initial procedure was done to our son, my husband had a mini-stroke which eventually led to his dismissal from the company due to his inability to do the job. We were devastated! What more could possibly go wrong--and all at once?! As the months wore on, Christmas approached. We were allowed to bring our little boy home for a couple of days to have Thanksgiving together as a family and then he went back up until December 16th when we were finally able to bring him home to stay. Needless to say, shopping and planning for Christmas was never given a forward thought. I found myself worrying about it in the back of my mind, but could not do anything physically or financially about it and so hoped that my Christmas gift to my children would be my presence home where I could fix them breakfast, do their laundry and listen to their problems for a change.
I had become good friends with the social workers at PCMC and they had met all of my children at one time or another. They liked our family and they were pleased to see the tender way my children dealt with this sick little boy. One day one of the social workers approached me about the idea of the judges in the Third Circuit Court in Salt Lake City providing Christmas for us. I was reluctant because we had such a large family and I was embarrassed. She pressed me and eventually convinced me to let the rest of my children have a few gifts to help lighten their minds and give them some happiness. She asked me interests of each child and sizes and wants and needs. I gave her some very sketchy ideas that were all very cheap gifts.
Much to my amazement, two days before I was able to bring our son home, some gifts began to mysteriously appear on our doorstep. Someone had decided to do the Twelve Days of Christmas for our family. Our kids were giddy with excitement! This was only the beginning of an entire town pouring out their love and goodness upon a family who needed, most of all, to have their spirits lifted The thoughts were far more important than the gifts. We had Santa Claus visit our house twice! The obstetrician who had taken care of me during this difficult pregnancy came to our house loaded down with gifts from his own family. And then the gifts from the judges came down. I thought there would be one of two gifts for each child. I was wrong! They brought down two vans full of garbage bags full of wonderful gifts! We didn't have enough space in our living room to hold everything. I was dumbfounded beyond belief! I knew my my husband and would NEVER be able to duplicate this kind of Christmas. But what a boost this was to my children. What a way to thank them for holding down the fort through all those long, long monts of tears and fears!
I don't remember many of the gifts--they were absorbed into our lives, having been used, enjoyed and either discarded or given away since then. But there was one gift that appeared wrapped in a beautiful box that remains with me every day. It is the one that I treasure the most. I opened up the box to find a soft brown plaid quilt. It was so soft. When I pulled it out and opened it up for everyone to see, I gasped to see the quilt's ties knotted around ten dollar bills completely covering the quilt. To this day I do not know who gave us this quilt. I have never let the children use it. It It remains in my cedar chest so I can bring it out every year and remind our children of this remarkable Christmas.
After our lives settled down a little more and our son became healthier, I had time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and determined that I needed to bring joy to someone outside of our own family. I thought about that wonderful quilt and was able to give that same gift to other families in need for three years by involving my co-workers to help bless the lives of others.
The true gifts of Christmas are those of caring and love, not money. True, we were able to pay some bills with the money tied on that quilt, but more importantly, the love that came wrapped in that quilt propelled me to spread the same thing over and over and over.
Christ said it best: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and yet took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we three an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say until them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25: 26-45)