It was Christmas Day and a soldier came home from the war with nothing but the clothes on his back. Not having time to buy any presents, he avoided coming across anyone he might know, out of the embarrassment of being emptyhanded.

While walking down the street an elderly couple saw the young man.  They invited him back to their home for dinner and refused to take no for an answer.

The soldier was polite but quiet. He enjoyed the warmth of the fireplace, the satisfying feeling of a full belly from a good meal and watching the loving interactions between the husband and wife.

After dinner, the wife said it was time to exchange gifts. She grabbed a couple of boxes from under the tree and handed one to her husband and one to the young man.  The soldier became very uncomfortable and tried to hand the box back.

“Thank you, but I cannot accept this ma’am. You have already done so much for me and I have nothing to give you in return,” he said.

The woman responded, “My dear, it is us who must thank you. You have given us gifts that are too large to wrap and put under a tree. Your service was a sacrifice that allowed us to go on with our lives. Your courage to be in dangerous scenarios guarded us from ever having to know them. Your defense of our values has afforded us our liberties and your protection of our freedom has saved us from tyranny. 

“These are the gifts that matter more than the presents that we exchange one day a year. These are the gifts that make a difference in all of our lives.”

The soldier, who had always thought of his service as act of duty and obligation, was touched by the woman’s words. He no longer felt ashamed of not carrying home a bag full of trinkets. He felt valued and appreciated. Still he handed back the box.

The woman asked, “Why won’t you accept it?”

“Because ma’am you too have given me gifts that are too large to wrap and put under a tree,” he said. “You welcomed me into your family this night when I did not feel worthy of company. You fed me to make sure I did not go hungry and your kind words reminded me of what is important in life.”

Merry Christmas to all.
May your life be full of the gifts that are too large to wrap.

MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County Executive