Some people know Christmas songs; one of my favorite church members, Mary Smith, knows Christmas spirit. This dear, 93-year-old, African-American woman’s testimony is sure to bring a smile to your face. Born in 1920 in Alabama, Mary was the second-youngest child in a family of four sisters and one brother. Mary’s father fed his entire family (7 people including himself and his wife) on a $21-a-week paycheck. He was a brilliant man who built both a house and church for his family. He also had a farm with livestock and chickens, a smokehouse, and a garden, where he grew all of the ingredients for the family’s salads.

When the Great Depression struck the United States in 1929, Mary heard stories about businessmen who had jumped from buildings to their deaths. She never had a desire to join them. Her family wasn’t wealthy, but she never knew the meaning of depression in her home. There was always food on the table. There was always a roof overhead. From the time she was born until she was ready to leave the house, she learned to be thankful for what God had given her. To this day, Mary thanks God for her childhood and her family. She told the people in my church, “The main thing a child needs is love.” Not toys. Not a TV. Not a bigger room. Just love: every morning; every evening; every time her birthday came around; come Christmas; come Easter; when she was good; when she was bad. Mary Smith’s parents gave her the gift of love, and it’s the one gift that made her really thankful.

If you want to give your kids something they will remember for years, you won’t find it at Toys ‘R Us, Best Buy, or their favorite clothing store. Actually, you don’t even have to leave the house to find it. Show them real, genuine, honest-to-goodness love. Teach them to be thankful for their family. Remind them that the best things in life aren’t material but spiritual. When December 26th rolls around, you won’t have many gifts to return because your kids will be satisfied with your love. That’s what Christmas is all about. Spread the spirit today.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder