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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Beans and gifts
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Friday, December 7, 2012


For the third evening in a row, there I sat at the dinner table staring at a plate full of brown beans, fried potatoes and onions, and cornbread.

I mean, I was used to eating beans and potatoes. That was a routine meal when I was growing up.

But for three days in a row?

I didn't say anything because there was no use in complaining. In fact, complaining could've led to trouble.

You eat what's put before you, and never gripe about it.

And you appreciate the food, not touching a bite before a formal prayer of thanks is said.

The truth is, money was always tight and meals had to be inexpensive. My mother bought and fixed what she could afford, and we were fortunate enough to have a garden, canned food and many relatives around who shared their bounties.

We never went hungry, even if the cuisine was not exactly diversified or fancy.

Of course, come Christmas time, the food choices improved dramatically, even if it meant fewer presents under the tree.

Getting together and sharing food was a priority, not giving each other a slew of gifts.

I am not saying I didn't enjoy receiving gifts. All children do. But the fewer gifts received, the more appreciated they are.

I remember many of those gifts, from a simple Timex watch to a softball glove.

Aunt Tham usually gave me some socks, and my grandmother would give us some small gift. Nothing expensive, just basic stuff that most kids even back then took for granted.

Many gifts were handmade, and they were always special because taking the time to make something was far more meaningful than buying something.

I felt lucky, though, because I had heard many stories about my parents' Christmases, when an orange, some candy and maybe a small toy was about all they received.

Any gifts from outside the family would not have been accepted.

You made do with what you had. End of story.

Boy, have times changed.

And that's what really irks me about Christmas these days.

We give too many gifts, and I have been guilty of that with my kids.

I have actually seen children receive so many gifts that they literally get tired of unwrapping them. And if a present isn't exciting, they quickly discard it and unwrap another.

As with anything, too much defeats the purpose.

We want to please our loved ones, and its easy to get carried away.

But a gift is, at least in theory, a token of love. Whether it's a family member or friend, we want to show them we care, so we give them something.

The price tag should be irrelevant.

And it is when given in the spirit of love.

Did I think my mother didn't love me when she kept fixing those pots of brown beans and frying those potatoes?

Of course not.

I knew she would have put a T-bone steak on my plate if she could have afforded to do so.

Those beans were given with love. That's all that really mattered.

The same is true with gifts.

As an adult, I really don't like to receive "store-bought" gifts. I even feel a bit embarrassed unwrapping them.

To me, the best gift, especially from my children, is simply to spend time together, have a great time, enjoy each other's company, share some food (maybe even some beans) and make lasting memories.

In the end, those memories are really all that matters anyway.

And we can take those with us.

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