The kids came to the bake tables at the church bazaar. They clutched brown envelopes in their hands, and they walked slowly up and down the length of the tables, surveying the goods and weighing their options. They wanted to choose carefully. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.
Other kids explored the toy section. They surveyed the goods and weighed their options. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.
Some kids wanted to buy Christmas gifts for family or friends. They surveyed the goods on the craft table and weighed their options. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.
The week before the bazaar, a member of our church congregation visited the kids in the Sunday school classrooms. She gave each child a brown envelope with a $10 bill folded inside. Sheila needed to travel on the weekend of the bazaar, so she wouldn’t be able to attend. She wanted to contribute though, and what better way than through the children? She prepared the envelopes and gave them to the kids, so they would have their own money to spend.
She didn’t tell anyone she did this, so on the weekend of the bazaar it took us a while to figure it out. Why did all these kids have brown envelopes? Why did all the envelopes contain exactly $10?
When the kids’ parents told the story though, word spread. One by one people heard about it and turned their heads to appreciate the kids in action with their Sheila money. We watched them cherish the gift that had fallen from the sky to land on them. We saw them learn to be good stewards of their money by choosing how to spend it wisely. We bloomed with joy and smiled broadly watching the kids make their Sheila money purchases.
When I asked Sheila if I could write about this, we talked about it for a while. I told her how touched I was watching those kids doing their shopping. She told me that she received the most beautiful thank you card from one of the kids, and another child had chosen to spend the money buying a gift to give back to her. We both teared up during our brief conversation.
“That’s Christmas right there,” I told her.
I’ve thought so much about Sheila money since then that I’ve broadened the definition in my mind. I’ve come to think of it as any selfless contribution a person makes to brighten someone else’s day. A few days before Christmas one of my friends encountered a tearful woman in dire straits. The $50 bill she gave to that woman was Sheila money. Another friend helped the Red Cross during the ice storm. That was Sheila money.
A gift, selflessly given, that gives joy to all. That’s Christmas right there.