“You’re sure making a big deal out of that one little ol’ Christmas card!” Miss Annie* had exclaimed. She was scolding her friend Martha* who had just told Annie – for the third time – about that same card. Miss Annie beamed and laughed as she related the incident to me when I was home for the Christmas holidays. Neither she nor I had realized the impact a simple Christmas card may have.
For years, I assumed that a Christmas card is nothing to make a fuss over. I had no roots except in the rural north Alabama community of my birth. Consequently, I was close to almost no one outside that community. I saw my close friends often. No need for Christmas cards when you spend the holidays surrounded by those you love.
Then a job opportunity took me, at age 38, into another state 160 miles away. After a couple of years, I realized that I seldom had time to see or call many of the friends who had been dear to me through the years, friends with whom I had worked, played, worshiped, wept and laughed.
With a new perspective on Christmas cards, I began sending them with zeal. First on my list were friends from my home church. I made a special effort to send cards to older members, and I always tried to write a short note of love and appreciation.
There were my Sunday school teachers from toddler to teen years. And there were those who led the hymns and worship. There were others who were simply quiet, faithful followers. Christmas cards became my way of telling them that they had had an impact on my life.
I sent cards to all of them – all, that is, except Miss Martha. She was a grumpy lady, always had been. I recalled her scowl, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing her smile.
Years passed, and I mailed countless cards, but I always excluded Miss Martha. Then one Christmas, I was going down the list in my home church directory, enjoying fond memories, writing notes, addressing envelopes. Automatically, my eyes skipped over Miss Martha. Without a second thought, I went on to the next name.
But then my eyes returned to Miss Martha, a momentary interruption. I continued down the list, writing to another loved one, and another. But after each envelope was sealed, my eyes always fell on her name again.
Surely the Lord didn’t expect me to send a card to Miss Martha! What could I say to her? For long minutes, I tried to recall some pleasant memory of her; there was none. To this day, I’m not sure what I wrote, but I sent a card to Miss Martha.
A few weeks later, visiting back at my home church, Miss Annie rushed to greet me. “Thank you for the Christmas card,” she said. “And listen, I’ve just gotta tell you about the one you sent Martha. When I came to church last Sunday, she pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ll never guess who I got a Christmas card from!’”
“No, who?” Annie had asked.
“Well, he sent us one, too,” Miss Annie had responded, unimpressed.
Annie continued: “We came to Bible study Wednesday, and Martha told me again she’d gotten a Christmas card from you. Then, I got to Sunday school this morning and she cornered me and told me again!”
Miss Annie laughed and said, “I’d had enough, so I told her, ‘Well, Martha, you’ve told me three times already. You’re sure making a big deal out of one little ol’ Christmas card!”
Momentarily stunned, Martha had just looked at Annie for a moment then stammered quietly, “Well, you would, too, if it’s the only one you got!”
One little ol’ card. You never know.
*Names have been changed. A version of this story first appeared in the Church of God Evangel in December 1996.