After Christmas many years ago, my two older brothers and I played with our new toys until we tired of them – for about three days. My mother brought a cardboard box into the dining room and told us of the kids at a local boys’ orphanage whose Christmas had consisted of a piece of fruit, a candy bar, a comb and a cheap toy in a standard package.

“How about we give some of those kids a Christmas they won’t forget?” Mom said. “Let’s fill this box with toys that will make Christmas special. We’ll do what Jesus would do.”

One of my brothers had an idea. “With all my new stuff, I don’t need my old stuff!” He ran to get armloads of dilapidated toys.

When he returned, my mother’s look stopped him. “Is that what Jesus would do?”

He pursed his lips and shrugged. “You want us to give our new stuff?”

“It’s just a suggestion.”

“All of it?”

“I didn’t have in mind all of it. Just what you think.”

“I’ll give this car,” I said.

“If you don’t want that,” my brother said, “I’ll take it.”

“I’m not givin’ it to you. It’s for the orphans.”

“I’m done with this bow and arrow set,” my other brother said.

“I’ll take that,” I said.

“I’ll trade you these pens for that model.”

“No deal, but I’ll take the pens and the cap gun.”

Eventually we noticed our mother had left the room. The box sat there, empty and glaring. We slipped away and played on the floor. But there was none of the usual laughing, arguing, roughhousing. Each played with his favorite toys with renewed vigor.

One by one we visited the kitchen. I found my mother at the table, coat and hat and gloves on. She had that fighting tears look.

Mom wasn’t going to browbeat us into filling the box. Each of us returned to play quietly, as if in farewell to certain toys. And to selfishness.

A few minutes later, Mom came for the box. My eldest brother had put almost all his new toys in it. My next brother and I selected more carefully, but chose our best for the box.

Years of childhood remained, but childishness had been dealt a blow.

Jerry B. Jenkins’ website is

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