November 28, 2008

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Giving up something important to make room for Christ

Debra TomaselliWhen our daughters attended St. Mary Magdalen School, they knew I loved discussing the homilies delivered at the children’s Masses. So it didn’t surprise me when, one day in December, Jenna, then 8, lingered in the kitchen to share the latest sermon.

“We went to Mass today,” she said, waiting for me to set the mail aside. “Father Charlie suggested that for Advent we give up something really important to us to make room for Christ in our lives.”

She paused, then continued. “He said it could be something you own, like a favorite toy, or it could be something else … like you could give up your anger to forgive someone or give up your time to help somebody or something like that.”

She shot a quick glance across the room to assure her sisters, Lynn, then 12, and Sara, then 5, weren’t nearby.

“I know what I’m going to do,” she said, stepping closer. Her eyes widened with excitement. Pulling my shoulder down to her level, she whispered, “I’m going to give Sara my black leotard.”

My head spun. My heart stopped. I was speechless. Had I heard right? The black leotard? The same outfit she nearly ripped off Sara when she pranced around the house in it? The same outfit that caused our gentle Jenna to screech every time Sara “borrowed” it? The same outfit that waged “war” between the two girls?

Jenna would share anything with her kid sister, including her pony collection, Easy Bake oven and her pink two-wheeler … but not that black leotard. … And, of course, nothing attracted Sara more.

After insisting I heard correctly, Jenna skipped away in search of a box and gift wrap. I forgot about the conversation until after supper when Jenna made an announcement.

“Sara, I have something to give you,” she said. She raced to her bedroom and emerged with a brightly wrapped present, complete with a bow.

“Here,” she said. Smiling, Jenna handed over the box. “This is for you.”

Sara cheerfully accepted the unexpected gift. When she spotted the prized leotard, she gasped. “This is for me?” she asked.

Jenna replied without hesitation. “Yep, it’s yours.”

Jenna beamed. Sara danced. They hugged. We laughed. It was hard to tell who was happier, the giver, the receiver or we innocent bystanders.

Motivated by Jenna’s sacrifice, I slipped away from the table and retrieved the emerald ring that Lynn always wanted, but everyone knew I refused to share it with her. It was authentic, I reasoned, and she might lose it.

Upon my return, I handed the ring to Lynn.

“Here,” I said. “This is for you.”

Neither Jenna nor I ever looked back. We relinquished precious possessions, only to be filled with something greater. Jenna and Sara never fought about the leotard again.

I don’t know if Lynn still has the ring or not, but it doesn’t matter.

In giving something up, we received something better, something we never envisioned.

We received freedom, love and forgiveness. We received peace. We received the King of kings.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is †

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