No gift for Sherry
By Major Barry Corbitt
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.