I moved to Dallas as part of a job transfer in the summer of 1997. It was smooth sailing at first but as time went by life began to beat me up a bit. By the time December arrived, I had discovered a level of lonely that I previously did not know existed. It was not fun.
One Saturday night, with apparently no better options to choose from I decided to venture out to the local Wal-Mart. I guess I had reached a point where anything was better than sitting at home. So, at about 10:00 out the door I went. That is the night I met “Chuck”.
I was walking down a messy Christmas décor aisle when my buggy came to an abrupt stop. Looking down I noticed something small and green had lodged under one of the front wheels. Instead of going around it, I picked it up.
It took a moment to un-ravel the trampled, tangled, smashed flat, headed for the trash can mess in my hands. As I did, it slowly transformed into a miniature 12-inch Christmas tree.
I stood there a bit surprised but as I looked it over, I remember with remarkable clarity the words that came to my mind, “You just needed a little love”. The irony.
At that moment in my life I could so relate to the tree’s discarded, beaten down and trampled condition.
I placed the dusted-off tree in my basket along with a strand of miniature lights and a few tiny ornaments. Total cost was maybe $6 but a solid investment toward adding some cheer to my life.
In short order the little tree with ten tiny lights was shining in my one-bedroom apartment. It was hands down the brightest thing I had going in my life at that moment. Having always been a fan of the cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, I named the tree “Chuck”. I had found me some happy.
The Christmas season ended, and I packed Chuck away in a shoe box for safe keeping. When the next Christmas season arrived, I was back home in Mobile, AL and my life was in a much better state.
I was around family, the girl I was “hanging out” with would eventually become Mrs. Hale and three sons would follow over a span of seven years.
Time often heals things but the months of lonely I spent in Texas had not, nor have they ever, left my mind.
Chuck made annual Christmas appearances as the years rolled on and somewhere along the way the decision was made to leave the little tree out on display year-round. It reminded me of where I had once been in life.
A few years ago, my oldest son came home with a tiny strand of LED lights to replace the lights on Chuck that had burned out years ago. Not long after that he excitedly showed up with a handful of very tiny ornaments, he had fished out of a trash can at school. Trashed ornaments for a trashed tree. Perfect.
Today, Chuck has a new look, a prominent spot in our home and shines brighter than ever.
In time, each of my sons have come to know the story of Dad’s little tree that is never put away. More importantly I have been able to pass along to each of them the life and faith lessons that are in the story.
In my life today I am no longer lonely, but I can still remember what that place felt like. This memory makes me very thankful for the family and relationships now around me.
In recent years a renewed and stronger faith has opened my eyes to the bigger story that I had missed for so many years. And that is this….
God often places us in trying times and difficult circumstances to grow us and our dependence on Him. Down times and seemingly hopeless situations have always been, and will always be, some of God’s favorite tools for preparing His imperfect people to carry out His perfect work in this fallen world.
Just like that little tree, this world is full of people that are navigating difficult times. They often “just need a little love” and God always needs a conduit to work through to reach them. If not through you, then who?
Get in the boat. Do your part.
From Nose to Toes.
Shane / #16