I moved to Dallas as part of a job transfer in August 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 about 10:00, with apparently no better options to choose from, I decided to venture out to the local Wal-Mart. I might have been riding a personal low but it was still better than being home alone.
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 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, but as I did, it slowly transformed into a miniature 12-inch Christmas tree.
I stood there a bit surprised at what that wad of greenery had turned into, 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.
Later that night the little tree with ten tiny lights was shining in my one-bedroom apartment. Not a bad turnaround for that little discarded item.
It was hands down the brightest thing I had going in my life at that moment, and having always been a fan of the cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, I named the tree “Chuck”.
For the moment at least, 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 trending towards a better state.
I was around friends and 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 I made the decision to leave the little tree out on display year-round.
The tree reminded me of that lonely stretch in Dallas vs where my life was today, with a family of my own, and the people I love around me.
A few years ago, my oldest son, Dylan, came home from school 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 what had been a trashed tree. They were 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, but, more importantly, I have been able to pass along to each of them the life and faith lessons that the tree represents to me.
Regarding Life – I am no longer lonely, but I well remember what that place felt like, and that memory makes me very thankful for the family and relationships I have in my life.
Regarding Faith – This one took much longer to evolve, and it is the bigger story that my eyes have been opened to in recent years, which is this….
God often allows us to be placed in trying times and difficult circumstances to grow us, and our dependence on Him.
These down times and perhaps seemingly hopeless situations have always been God’s favorite tools for molding, shaping and preparing His imperfect people to carry out His perfect work in this fallen world.
Just like that little tree needed some help to change it’s plight, this world is full of people in similar situations, navigating difficult times, perhaps enduring seemingly hopeless situations.
Unless you have been there you can’t understand how badly some people “just need a little love”, a small break, a hand up, or even a small blessing to meet an immediate need.
All of these things have the potential to not only provide some support, lighten a load, or squash some fear, but more importantly, they may just open a door for God to work in a life. Thing is though, they have to be provided by someone.
God is always in need of a channel, a conduit, to work through in this world.
If not through you…. then through who?
Get in the boat. Do your part.
From Nose to Toes.
Shane / #16