The Implications of our Best Intentions

November 25, 2015

“Christmas again. Damn!” His words are barely audible, but his wife knows his feelings well. She sees the hurt in his eyes when the kids come home from school talking about what they want for Christmas. It is the same expression she sees on the face of other unemployed fathers around the ‘hood.

She knows this year will be no different from the last. All her husband’s hustle, his day-labor jobs, his pickup work will not be enough to put presents under the tree. They will do well to keep the heat on. His confident, promising deceptions allow the children the luxury of their dreams a while longer. She will cover for him again because she knows he is a good man. His lies are his wishes, his flawed attempts to shield his children from discovering what the older ones know but never admit: the gifts are not from Daddy.

He will not go with her to stand in the “free toy” lines with all the others. He cannot bring himself to do it. It is too stark a reminder of his own impotence. And if their home is blessed again this year with a visit from a Christian family bearing beautifully wrapped presents for the kids, he will stay in the bedroom until they are gone. He will leave the smiling and the graciousness to his wife. His joy for the children will be genuine. But so is the heavy ache in his stomach as his image of himself as a provider is dealt another blow.

Christmas. That wonderful, awful time when giving hearts glow warm while the fading embers of a poor man’s pride are doused cold.”

The above was written by Bob Lupton, urban activist, founder of Focused Community Strategies, and author of Toxic Charity and Charity Detox.

His powerful words remind us to consider the implications of our best intentions this season (and throughout the year).