The Gift of Faith

A true story about the Gift of Faith for Christmas by Carl Mays

Near the beginning of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the large Canaday family was having a difficult time. As Christmas approached, the seven children asked Mom and Dad about what presents they might get. Dad explained the situation, that they did not have enough to live on, and there would be no money for gifts. But Mom kept hope alive by telling the children, “Say your prayers. Ask God to send us what he wants us to have.”

Dad countered with, “Now, Mother, don’t be getting the children’s hopes up. You’re just setting them up for disappointment.” Mom simply responded, “Pray, children.” And pray they did. When Christmas Eve arrived, the children watched out the window for visitors, but no one came. “Blow out the lamp and go to bed,” Dad said. “Nobody’s coming. No one even knows we’re out here.” The children extinguished the lamp and climbed into bed, but they were too excited to sleep. Was this not Christmas? Had they not asked God to send them the presents he wanted them to have? Did Mom not say God answers prayer?

Late that night, one of the children spotted headlights coming down the dirt road. All of the children jumped out of bed and ran to the window. The commotion woke up Mom and Dad. “Don’t get excited, children,” Dad warned them. “They’re probably not coming here. It’s just someone who got lost.” The children kept hoping and the car kept coming. Dad lit a lamp. They all wanted to rush to the door at the same time, but Dad said, “Stay back. I’ll go.”

A man got out of the car. He looked up at Dad in the doorway and called out, “I was wondering if someone here could help me unload these bags.” The children dashed through the doorway to lend a hand, except for the youngest child Judy who helped Mom prepare a place for the numerous brown bags.

The visitor, a deacon from the church in town, had gone to bed that Christmas Eve and lay there tossing and turning, unable to get the Canaday family off his mind. He didn’t know exactly what kind of financial shape they were in, but he did know they had seven children and times were difficult. So he got out of bed, went around town, roused people from their sleep, and asked for a contribution. He filled his car with bags of groceries, canned goods, toys, and clothing.

The next Sunday, Mrs. Canaday stood in church and told the congregation what some of the members – and one deacon in particular – had done for her family. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Years later, Eva, the oldest girl in the family, wrote about the unforgettable Christmas for a school project. She said, “We were so thrilled by all the wonderful things in the bags that for a while we lost sight of the most special gift of all. The best gift was not in the brown bags. It was Mom’s faith, as she taught her children to bring their needs to God and trust him to meet these needs.” Eva also reflected on a Dad’s love that wanted only to protect his children from hurt and heartbreak that year.

Dr. Joe McKeever passed along this story, which came to him through a young lady named Carrie Fuller, a member of his church. Carrie also told her pastor, “Little Judy is my wonderful grandmother. She is still alive and continues to feel pride in being the recipient of such a precious heritage from her mother and father as she retells this memorable episode from seventy years ago. And she fondly remembers the precious rag doll she received that Christmas.”

At Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded that we also celebrate praying mothers, caring fathers, and believing children. We give thanks for sensitive deacons, generous friends, and sleepless nights. And we praise God for the hard times that teach unforgettable lessons. These lessons become stories of faithfulness that are told and retold through the years, inspiring each new generation to place their trust in God and his Son.

Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including “A Strategy For Winning,” “People of Passion,” “Anatomy Of A Leader” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at, and on


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