December 10, 2021

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Parents show their child the depth of their love

David Bethuram

(The following story shared by a client demonstrates how she grew up in a poor family blessed with the true riches of life.)

Deborah was 7 when she went into her parents’ bedroom and saw her mother sitting at her sewing machine making doll clothes. Her mother was a beautiful seamstress and was always sewing items for the church bazaar and making clothes for people.

Deborah asked who the doll clothes were for. Her mom told her that they were for the poor people, so Deborah never gave it another thought.

On Christmas morning, when Deborah opened her present, there were those beautiful doll clothes that she had seen her mother making. Deborah said, “I thought the doll clothes were for the poor people.” Her mother smiled and said, “They are for the poor people. We’re poor.”

When Deborah was 9, her greatest desire in life was to own a pogo stick. She had recently learned to walk on a pair of stilts her dad made for her, and she thought that if she also mastered a pogo stick that surely the circus would want to hire her for her incredible feats.

When Christmas rolled around again, Deborah told her mother that the only thing she wanted was a pogo stick. Her mother told her it was way too expensive and that they simply couldn’t afford one. On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas, her mom and dad told her they needed to go to Sears to pay their revolving credit bill.

While her mother and Deborah were at the counter paying the bill, her dad said, “I’ll be right back, I need to see something in the tool department.” After the bill was taken care of, Deborah and her mother walked back to their truck. Shortly thereafter, her dad came walking out with a long slender box. Deborah remembered wondering if it was a pogo stick.

When they arrived back at home, her dad put the box in the barn. While her parents were busy with their chores, Deborah snuck out to the barn and found the box. She was so excited and knew that as soon as she opened that magical box her bright, shiny pogo stick would appear.

No such luck! Inside the box was an old broom. Thus, Christmas morning was both great and disappointing. Deborah got some nice gifts, but she didn’t get the present she really wanted.

After the wrapping paper was cleaned up, her dad said he needed to tend to something in the barn. When he came back in, he had a beautiful pogo stick.

Deborah couldn’t believe how they were able to scrape the money together for it and how they tricked her with the broom. She was so excited that she couldn’t let the pogo stick out of her sight. When she went to bed, she made sure it was on the floor next to her. She was surprised she didn’t fall out of bed because she slept on the edge so that she could hold onto her pogo stick as she fell asleep.

Although Deborah’s family didn’t have much money, her parents gave her the most important gift of all: an abundance of love. They had love and they had joy. Her dad worked hard to provide for the family, and her mother knew how to stretch a dollar. Although their home was old and small, it was immaculate, and they always had plenty to eat and clean, and warm beds to sleep in at night.

That was more than 60 years ago, and Deborah still relives those cherished Christmas memories every year. She will never forget all the joy her parents brought into her life.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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