A few years ago, my young adult children became very competitive around the gift they gave me for Christmas. The question was “Who gave the best Christmas gift to dad (me)?”

For years, my son Anthony (we call him Ant) watched me cook rotisserie chicken on our grill using a motor my father gave me over 25 years before. Over the years, the cover came off and the gears were exposed. We attached it to the grill with bailing wire. Often, it fell off and the chickens burned. It just wasn’t working. He found a motor that could spin 50 pounds of chicken and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. Every time we use it, he still brags that he gave dad the very best Christmas gift. Ever.

There was another gift he gave me that was also exceptional. He may have forgotten, so I need to take him back to when he was seven. It was Christmas morning and we were opening gifts.

My wife handed me something that was about 18 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. I can still see it as if it was yesterday. It was wrapped in red wrapping paper. She explained it was from Ant.

I had no idea what it was. As I unwrapped the gift, I saw that it was a long-handled screwdriver.

I spun the handle to see the Craftsman logo. It was nowhere to be found. In fact, the handle wasn’t acrylic like my Craftsman screwdrivers. Instead, it was wood and was painted red. It wasn’t securely fastened into an acrylic handle. Rather there was a nail going through the handle to secure it to the shaft. Let me talk about the blade.

It was hammered out to resemble a screwdriver blade. It wasn’t heat treated as my Craftsman screwdrivers were. If you put the blade on a screw, you could turn the handle, the blade would twist, and the screw would not turn.

While trying to show gratitude on my face, I said to myself, “My wife wasted $1.08 (including tax) on this screwdriver. I’ll just lose it behind the workbench, so it doesn’t get mixed up with my good Craftsman screwdrivers.”

Just as I said that, my happy son bounded off the couch, snuggled up to me and said, “Do you know why I got you that screwdriver? I lost your good Craftsman screwdriver and I wanted to replace it.”

Just as quick as he came up to me, he went back to play with his toys.

For me, everything stopped. It was one of those God moments when I realized what I had communicated to my son, “If you put back my Craftsman screwdrivers, then I will love you. If you don’t put them back or they get lost, then I will withhold my love.” Since the message of Christmas is the gift of God’s unconditional love, my parenting contradicted that message. I was appalled at my behavior.

That screwdriver never fell behind the workbench never to be seen again. Rather, I found a special place to show it off. For years, I proudly displayed it in my office adjacent to three spikes my pastor gave me after a Good Friday service. When visitors came to my office, they would say, “I understand the three spikes, but what is it with the screwdriver?” My response was simply this, “It’s one of my most treasured gifts. It’s what Christmas is all about.” They look confused, didn’t say a word, thinking I lost it and just moved on.

Have a very Merry Christmas.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.


The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president and CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Contact him at www.charlotterescuemission.org.

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