Sunday, November 28, 1972. It was a big day. A really big day.
I turned 11, and my parents gave me the greatest gift ever – a blue Schwinn bike, complete with a sparkly banana seat and high handle bars. It wasn't just cool, it was going to be the coolest bike in the rack in front of Ben Franklin Elementary School on Monday ... and, it was!
Friday, December 3, 1972. It was a bad day. A really bad day.
Probably in my arrogance, I was admiring my new bike more than I should. I put it into bike rack that morning and failed to remember to put the lock on it. I saw it during recess ... I took every opportunity to look at it. When I came out at the end of the school day to get my incredible bike and ride home ... it was gone! Stolen! I ran inside to the Principal's office (Mr. Taylor was not real fond of me) and turned in a report. It was a long, long walk home that day.
Friday, December 24, 1972. A day I will never, ever forget.
My extended family on my mom's side had driven in from Dallas and Waco to spend Christmas with our family. Among the bunch was my great uncle Bill (his real name was David, I was named after him). Uncle Bill was one tough hombre. We were all a bit scared of him. As bald as bald could be. He never married because he was in the FBI ... whoa! He would never tell us what he did, so you can imagine what we thought he did. Uncle Bill lived by himself in an old house where my great-grandparents had lived in Waco, TX. I always remember thinking how poor he was.
Christmas Eve can be magical for a 10-year-old boy. You can guess what I hoped for, but knew I wouldn't receive ... another bike. Sure enough, when Santa showed up ... Schwinn did not. I knew it was all my fault I didn't have a bike.
After we opened our presents, Uncle Bill called me and my dad into my parents bedroom. I remember it like it was yesterday. I though I was in trouble ... it was a condition I often found myself in. Uncle Bill pulled out his old leather wallet, opened it up and took out a crisp brand new $100 dollar bill. I had never seen one in my life. He told me he heard about my bike being stolen and wanted to give me that $100 dollar so I could go with my dad to get a new bike.
I just stared at it.
I couldn't believe it. Tears have come even now, as I see this memory so clearly in my mind's eye.
You see ... generosity changes everything. I never looked at Uncle Bill the same. Here was a man that gave far more than he could afford to help a kid get a bike. Generosity is a strong, powerful and mysterious thing. It changes us when we do it. It changes us when it is done to us. That day forever changed that boy and this man.
May you experience generosity this December, as we celebrate the One who would give the greatest gift of all.
David Wills is President of National Christian Foundation in our Atlanta office. His passions are centered on generosity and eternity, and he therefore invests his time helping others "lay up treasure in heaven" (Matthew 6:20).