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No gift for Sherry 

By Major Barry Corbitt

It was Christmas. I had a girlfriend, but I didn't have a dime to my name. I didn't have a job, either, which explains the primary condition behind my poverty. Not many 5th graders held down steady jobs back then, something to do with labor laws and such. By the age of 10 I had already learned one of the fundamental laws of romance; girlfriend minus cash equals short-lived relationship. Girls expect gifts from time to time, and the only thing I had to offer was the ability to write a pretty good love note, a skill beyond my years I might add. Sadly, words on a page are moving and meaningful for a while, but shiny diamond-type expressions of affection last forever.

I think it was around this time, 1972, that I first read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." No doubt, it is the standard by which all other stories of sacrificial love are judged. My own problem was more complex however. I didn't have a watch.

My best friend, Randall, and I decided to give our girls rings for Christmas. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and everything would have been fine had we not tipped our hand and boasted of our intentions.

For Randall, the ring was not a problem. His financial position was strong while my income was, as already mentioned, nonexistent. In fact, he showed me his ring a few days before we were to present our gifts to the girls. It had a pink stone with a yellow gold setting, nestled in a beautiful velvety green box. I remember thinking the box alone was one of the classiest things I had ever seen and I would have been proud to have it without the ring. At least I could daydream about what precious jewel might fill its empty space.

My grandmother used to say she was so poor she couldn't buy a nickel's worth of five dollar bills. She also said, "Wish in one hand, spit in the other, and see which one fills up first." So there I stood, backed into a corner with a promise and a hand full of spit.

I found an old ring at home that belonged to my sister. One of the stones was missing and I toiled secretly in my room well into the night to repair it only to be foiled by a lack of expertise and super glue. The urgency of circumstances began to take a toll on my sanity. I'm certain that the premature onset of my gray hair began on that cold December night as I struggled to find a solution to my jewelry dilemma.

The next day, one way or another, the matter would be settled, but I knew Sherry would never understand. She had gone to bed that night with smiles and dreams of a promise I could not fulfill.

The next morning I had to face the music. I looked down at the floor in humiliation as I broke the news to Sherry that I didn't have her ring. I expected her to cast me aside and spread the word around school that the little poor kid with shabby clothes couldn't scrape together enough cash to buy a cheap trinket.

I imagined the other girls laughing at me behind my back and wondered if my reputation would ever recover. All of my anxiety was for naught. Sherry surprised me with her kindness.

How was it possible that she could be so gentle and forgiving? I saw the hurt in her eyes, but heard compassion in her voice. I think she knew the truth; that I never really had the capacity to carry through on my word. She may have even prepared herself for the disappointment in advance in order to ease the sting of a broken promise. But, it was more than that, I think.

As I mull it over 34 years later, I've come to the conclusion that Sherry knew the true meaning of Christmas all along. Her miraculous gift to me was the restoration of my wounded esteem. Somewhere along the way she had learned that love takes no account of suffered injustice. I learned that love expects nothing and gives everything.

That, my friends, is Christmas the way it was meant to be.

Editor's note: The following account of a Salvation Army mission trip for young adults to Jamaica was written by Kerrie Robertson of Graceville, Fla.

As a student majoring in missions, I had never actually been on a mission trip before. The day I found out I was approved to go, I cried throughout an entire class period. Everything came together without my having to worry about it. It was apparent to me that God's plan for my life those 10 days was to be in Jamaica with my team.

Preparing for my trip, I had no idea what to expect. When I would daydream about the coming trip, I imagined a place with no water or toilets, where I would be dirty all of the time, and probably hungry too. It makes me laugh now to think back at what I thought it would be like.

I was really nervous when I left for Jamaica, but I knew God had everything in control, and I had a lot of people praying for me back home. When I met up with the team it was kind of awkward, as it always is when you meet new people. But it amazes me now to see the strong bond we formed by the end of the trip - it was almost immediate. I think we were all a little surprised at how easy it was for us to feel like family.

Our Jamaican home was fantastic. It had a great view of the mountains, and down the hill you could see Hanbury Home, the orphanage and the kids playing and working. The boys on our trip stayed at Windsor Lodge, another Salvation Army home that we visited. We were very grateful for Captain Jackie Palmer, her hospitality, her sarcasm and for allowing us to use their water when we had none left!

We arrived on a Saturday. The next morning, Sunday school had been canceled - not that any of us knew it; the kids took leadership and led us in an hour-long worship service. It was the purest worship I'd ever experienced.

Our work or service for the trip was to get the home ready for their 50th anniversary celebration, which would be held the next week. We started off by painting the boys dorm and then later in the week we painted Babyland, the home for infants to toddlers. Everyone on the team worked well together. We were almost always laughing, but somehow we were able to get the job done well and in great time. At Hanbury the painting had purpose, and we felt the joy of the Lord in doing that small service for those adorable children.

While our assignment for the trip was painting, the real job we had was to build relationships with the kids. God gave us an abundance of opportunities to do that. Each team member has a million stories that only they experienced with the kids that have remolded and shaped them in a unique way.

In closing, I'd like to share about one little 9-year-old girl who changed my outlook on life. Her name was Kerry Anne, and she told me that she was very sick; she faints at least once a day. She told me that the doctors do not know what is wrong with her, but she thinks she is sick because she misses love. Kerry Anne's mother died when she was only 3. She had been living with foster parents (who gave her a Bible, her most valued possession) until a year ago, when her father wanted to take her back.

You see, until Kerry Anne chooses who to live with, she has to stay at Hanbury. She told me that she cannot choose. She loves them all so much that she doesn't want to have to make that choice. But in spite of all of these heart-breaking circumstances, Kerry said, with a voice I'll never forget, "I don't look back and get sad. There is no point. I remember to only look forward to the good things that God has for me." A 9-year-old became my mentor that day. And because of her godly wisdom and imperishable joy, I see the world in a different light.




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