Oliver's Gift

by Doug Engel

A long time ago, in a town not unlike our own, there lived a boy and his mother. The blue paint on their house, one of the oldest in town, was faded and chipped. The front door didn’t quite fit right so it was drafty in the winter months. You’d never hear them complain. It was home.

Oliver was only twelve years old. That’s pretty young to be the man of the house but he did his best. His mother found work washing clothes and cleaning houses when her son was in school. Making ends meet as a single mom is a challenge and with the economy in a slump it made things even worse. As bad as it was, there always seemed to be enough.

About a year earlier Oliver’s mother got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. How could they afford the treatments? That’s when they met Mike. Mike was visiting a friend in the hospital when he met Oliver and his mother. He asked if he could pray for them and then got his church involved. Through the church the entire cost of the treatment was paid for, no strings attached!

Once Oliver’s mother got well they went to church every Sunday where they heard about Jesus for the first time. Jesus, they learned, was God’s gift to mankind. As his mother grew in her faith Oliver began to notice some changes. She was more patient, kind, and her voice softer. She had a gentle confidence. Often she would be singing as she did her chores. She also began to read her Bible every morning, always inviting Oliver to listen. But Oliver wasn’t interested so he always made the excuse that he was late for school. “Who needs the Bible anyway?” he thought.

Christmas was just around the corner and Oliver wanted to get something special for his mother. At church he talked to Mike about his dilemma and Mike came up with the perfect solution! Oliver could go over to Mike’s place after school where they could work together on his project. He could use Mike’s tools to make a handmade trivet for hot pots.

The two of them worked on his project every school day for over a week and part of a Saturday too. Mike, who knew a little bit about carving wood, skilfully poured his knowledge into young Oliver. Oliver took it all in like a dry sponge. The completed project was so well crafted that you’d have a hard time believing that it was made by a twelve year old. Perfect!

On Christmas morning Oliver was so excited to see how his mother would receive the gift he’d put so much time into making. When the moment came she unwrapped the gift with care and examined the handcrafted trivet.

“Did you do all of this for me?” she asked.
“Mr. Mike helped me, but yes mother. I did it all for you because I love you,” Oliver answered proudly.

She told him that it was beautiful and then she did something quite unexpected. Reaching up, she found an out-of-the-way spot in the back of the cupboard. It was so far back, in fact, that it couldn’t be seen. “How will it ever get used?” Oliver thought.

Over the next few days his mother served various meals that required something underneath the pot to protect the table from the heat. The trivet Oliver made would have been perfect but instead his mother used an old tea towel. The third time this happened Oliver’s mother noticed the tears in his eyes. She instinctively knew what was bothering her son.

“Oliver,” she said, “I love the gift you sacrificed so much to make for me. It’s truly the best gift I’ve ever received because it’s jam-packed full of love.”

“But mother,” Oliver confessed. “Why did you put it where you wouldn’t see it?”

“Oliver, when we started attending church we knew nothing about Jesus. But now we’ve learned that Jesus is God’s gift to us. God took the wrong that you and I did and put it on Jesus so that we could live free. He did it all because he loves us!”

“I don’t understand,” Oliver responded.

“My son, what did you do with the gift God gave you?” his mother asked.

As Oliver thought about what his mother told him he began to understand. The tears began to roll down his cheeks. “I’m sorry mother. Now I understand.”

Oliver’s mother held out her arms and like a magnet to metal the two embraced. “Why not tell God that you’re sorry right now Oliver,” she suggested.

And he did.

When his prayer was over and his cheeks dry his mother reached up and took down the trivet that Oliver had made. “I love you son,” his mother said.

“I love you too!” answered Oliver.

And so it was, in a town, not unlike our own, a boy and his mother each received special gifts that Christmas, both born out of sacrifice and both jam-packed full of love.