My parents have been hardworking individuals for their entire lives which has allowed them to afford many luxuries that others may view as unnecessary or unimportant. Personally, I would not have referred to us as being wealthy but rather as being relatively comfortable to the extent that I cannot recall ever wondering if there would be dinner on the table or gifts under the Christmas tree. This did not mean that every time that I asked for something that it was immediately granted, but it did mean that I could be pretty certain that I would get it sometime in the near future following the request. I assumed that this was because my parents loved me and were willing to do anything to provide for me. Unfortunately, this also gave me the opinion that parents who were not able to provide somehow were less than my own.
It was the week after Thanksgiving and my father told me that one of his coworkers would be coming over that weekend to help him do some work to the garage. I found this strange because I knew most of the people at the office and could not imagine any of them getting grease on them or moving things around the garage for my father. When the coworker showed up on Saturday, his two children were with him. My father introduced them and explained that they lived on the other side of town. The gentleman’s name was Thomas and worked in the custodial department at the office.
My father and Thomas went out to the garage and the children and I went out back to play. We watched as the fathers carried Christmas decorations out of the garage and excitedly began talking about the upcoming gift giving holiday. We verbally exchanged our Christmas wish lists and I realized that mine was far more extensive than theirs. “Is that all that you want?” That was all I could say.
The brother and sister looked at me as if I had asked some strange question. The son, who was a few years older, explained that Christmas presents are only part of it and that they do a lot of fun things together which makes the holiday break fun. He explained that big wish lists sometimes make people forget that the holidays are supposed to be about time together.
I felt as if I had stepped into another universe. My parents and I do fun things together. I could not understand why having a big Christmas wish list meant that we had less fun. Quickly, I changed the subject and we ended up having a great time while the fathers finished up the work in the garage. As they were leaving, I saw my father hand Thomas an envelope. They thanked one another and the family left to return to the other side of town where I had thought that parents were less willing to truly provide for their families.
That night, I heard my mother and father talking about why Thomas had been there. “I did not mean to eavesdrop, but is Thomas a coworker or an employee? I mean, was he working for you today?” I was very confused by the difficult time that my parents had in responding to my question.
“Thomas is a coworker because we work together at the same office,” my father explained. “However, Thomas’s position does not pay as much money as mine does and he sometimes has to do extra work so that he can have things that his family needs. Today, he did some extra work for me because Christmas is coming, and he wants to give his children everything on their list.”
“Dad,” I hesitated, “their list is short.”
“Perhaps, but it is important to him to fill it.”
In that moment, I realized that all parents will do whatever they can to provide for their children. Exactly what this means may be different based on the family values, but the fact remains that parents love their children. My parents would have been as supportive and provided as well if the tables were turned because, rich or poor, that is the role that they chose. I never considered just how much harder it is for parents without money to prove this but, then again, to the children that they love, the proof is already there.