As best I can recall, it was fifty-five years ago. One day, our first-grade teacher Mrs. Posey (I always thought that was a perfect name for a first-grade teacher), told the class that we would be making Christmas presents for our parents.

The picture you see with this article is the gift I made for my mother. It was more than half a century ago. If my younger self's amazing creativity is so stunning that it diverts your attention from what the item actually is, it is a box of matches.

To be clear, the original matches that came in the box have been used and replaced many times in the last fifty-five years. It was in the cabinet over the stove in the little house I grew up in on the south side of town. When I was a senior in high school, we moved to a bigger house on the west side, and the matchbox came with us.

Despite its' cheerful holiday motif, the matchbox has served us well on many occasions. Matches have been struck on its' side to light candles for birthdays and formal parties, as well as to light the grill for a summertime barbecue.

I never wondered if it was still in my parents' kitchen, even after my mother died. After Daddy died, I lovingly removed it and brought it home to our house. Now it is a treasured keepsake.

It was always a special gift to my mother, which is why she never parted with it. But it was special to me too, and here's why.

Before first grade, my parents chose Christmas gifts for each other, then set aside one or two so that I would have something to give each of them. As an only child (and an only grandchild on my mother's side), Christmas was all about receiving to me.

But in 1966, thanks to Mrs. Posey, something changed. I put a lot of effort into decorating that matchbox. And when the glue was dry and the day arrived to take it home, I concealed it in my school stuff and smuggled it to an appropriate hiding place in my room. Later, I wrapped it and put it under the tree.

On Christmas morning, 1966, Mama opened my gift. I don't recall exactly, but I'm sure she made quite a fuss over that decorative matchbox. And I learned something that day. I learned about the joy of giving.

Mama has been gone for seven years now. She was only in her thirties when I gave her that matchbox. I treasure it now- not for its intrinsic value or even its artistic merit. But because it was the first gift that taught me the joy of giving.

This is known as the season of giving. I hope you have learned to find the joy of giving- not just to your loved ones, but to your place of worship and to those who help others who may not be as fortunate as you.

One day my children will go through our kitchen. When they find that funny-looking matchbox, I hope that they will know what it represented before they throw it away. It was a gift that took work to produce, and that was given with great love. And it was the gift that made a giver out of me.

And I hope they will be reminded of the joy of giving.

David B. Carpenter

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