Have you ever been disappointed by what Santa brought you for Christmas? One year, as a small boy, I was disappointed.
Ralphie, the little boy in the movie, “The Christmas Story,” and I had a lot in common. He wanted a BB gun, but not just any BB gun. He knew every detail of the gun he wanted. He wanted a Red Ryder, 200 shot, range model, air rifle.
Like Ralphie, I wanted a bicycle, but not just any bicycle. I wanted the one that was pictured on the back pages of the comic book I was reading. It was the most beautiful bike in the world. It was a red Schwinn with white trim. It had a seat over the rear fender where a friend could sit and ride with you. It had a light on the front fender where you could see when it got dark. The handle bar grips set it off perfectly. They had beautiful red and white streamers coming out of them. That bike was beautiful, and it looked fast. It was my dream that Christmas.
Like Ralphie, I told my parents and anyone else who would listen about it. I even made a trip to the downtown Pizitz department store, and rode the escalator to the third floor to talk to Santa. I stood in a long line until I had my chance to sit in his lap and tell him exactly what I wanted.
When Christmas morning came, I was filled with excitement. My mother came into my room and said, “Come on, Bobby. Get up and see what Santa Claus had brought you.” I rushed into the room, fully expecting to see my dream bike. When I saw the bicycle by the tree, the words flew out of my mouth, “That ain’t no Schwinn!” Disappointment reigned supreme.
What I saw was a big green ugly bicycle with the name “Collegiate” on it. It was definitely not the Schwinn of my dreams. When I tried to ride it, I found that my feet could barely reach the pedals, and I fell over several times. Disappointment reigned supreme.
However, as the years went by, I learned to love that big ugly “Collegiate” bicycle. One of my first jobs was delivering shoes for McClendon’s Shop Repair shop on First Avenue North near Woodlawn High School. I delivered shoes all over Woodlawn, and Woodlawn Highlands. When Mr. McClendon wanted lunch, I had to pedal all the way to Mack’s Barbeque stand on First Avenue North and Sixty-Fifth Street where the railroad tracks crossed the avenue. They had very good barbecue. I did all of this on that big ugly “Collegiate” bicycle.
My second job was delivering newspapers for the Birmingham Post-Herald. My route covered part of Woodlawn, and all of Woodlawn Highlands. Once again, that big ugly bike made it possible for me to work.
I kept that bike until I grew out of the bicycle stage. It never broke down, or needed repair. It was the best bike I ever owned and the only one.
As I look back across the years, I learned several lessons from my disappointing gift from Santa. They are as follows:
- Everything doesn’t have to be new, flashy, or as advertised in a comic book to be good.
- Parents sacrifice for their children, particularly at Christmas. My parents were poor, but I didn’t know it. They bought a used bicycle from our neighbors, and took it to the Woodlawn Bicycle Shop where it was checked out and painted green. This was the bike they gave me for Christmas. It was all they could afford.
- I have regretted my words of disappointment on that Christmas morning. My parents must have been disappointed in my reaction to their gift. However, they must have known that over the year, I came to love and appreciate that bike, and the ones who gave it to me.
- As a young adult, I became a Christian, and learned that Christmas was snot really about Santa Claus and gifts. It was, and still is, about God, the greatest gift giver, and His greatest gift—His Son Jesus Christ. No one who receives Him is ever disappointed. Merry Christmas!
Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a Christian author, retired minister, and public speaker who lives in the Birmingham area. firstname.lastname@example.org