We were often quite poor. When we lived out in the country, we had an old car with bad brakes and no money to fix them. So, my parents only drove it to get necessities at the local corner store down the road. When they returned, if the car wouldn’t stop, they would steer it into the field next to the driveway to help it. One day, my mom needed to buy some necessities at the store. My dad told her to buy only the handful of essentials on her list because they were counting their pennies. When she came home and parked in the field next to the driveway, the car was full of several bags of groceries. My dad was very upset and started chewing out my mom for buying so many things. Finally, my mom was able to get a few words in edgewise and explained that all the groceries were free. Weeks earlier, she had submitted her name in a drawing sponsored by the store for a cart full of free groceries, and she won! My mom gave credit to God for providing for her family when we were desperate.

Regardless of our circumstances, my parents always strove to provide a nice Christmas for their six children. The older I became, the more I realized our dire financial condition, so I would be surprised on Christmas morning to see the number of presents under the tree. I appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to bring this magical joy into our lives. However, it did not always last long. Often when we moved, we did not have enough room in the trailer for all our cherished belongings, so we had to choose what we would leave and what we would take with us to our new home.

I remember my sophomore year in high school well. We moved out of state in October and had a nice Christmas in December, and then things did not work out as my parents had planned, so we moved back to California in January. Adjusting to three different high schools in one year was difficult, but that is not my worse memory regarding the moves. My older brother and I helped our father load our car and a trailer for the move back west, and there was not enough room for many of the Christmas gifts we had just received a few weeks earlier. Leaving behind my presents and other possessions is not what haunts my memory, even though I was not happy about leaving my stamp collection. What pains me to this day was watching my younger sisters, who still believed in Santa Claus, cry when they had to leave their new dolls and other Christmas gifts. That was tough.

I learned that hard times increases our capacity to feel empathy for others, which is one of the most important things to develop during our mortal experience.

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