A Christmas letter to parents, from a kid who doesn’t have any

by Jonathan Trotter on December 2, 2016

Your kids aren’t going to remember what you get them for Christmas. They’re just not.

At least I don’t.

My mother died when I was a teen, my dad when I was in my early twenties. And when I think of the holiday seasons with them, I remember them. I don’t remember their gifts.

I remember my mom stomping down snow and scattering bird seeds to feed the menagerie of winged color that knew where to find a good meal.

I remember slow evenings around rock and wood and fire.

I remember egg nog, sipped slowly, and luminaries of sand and wax.

I remember Christmas Eve walks with family, sometimes comfortable and sometimes minus twenty.

I remember their love, not their presents.

Remember, the one with the most toys does not win.


Your kids don’t need more stuff. They need you.

To put it bluntly, there will come a Christmas without you. Hopefully, it’ll come much later, but it might come sooner. That’s not a morbid thought, it’s a centering thought. Your kids will always have stuff. They will not always have you.

So hug them. Read to them.
For Christ’s sake, be silly with them and show them that joy exists outside of presents.

Dance with your children and make memories. Watch Elf together and belly laugh. Schedule some down time. Block it out on your calendar because it’s important. Say no to something so you can say yes to something better.

Pause long enough this holiday season to cuddle with your little one. Or listen to your big kid. Don’t spend so much time watching football with your kids that you never play football with them.

Remember: it’s not about stuff. It never was, and it never will be.

Please, don’t give your children something so cheap as things. Stuff never connects people in meaningful ways. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect, isolating the user: “I play with my stuff and you play with yours.”

Stuff fills our hands, making it harder to touch another person’s soul.

Stuff fills our ears, blocking out the heart-cries of the near ones.

Stuff fills our eyes all the way to the periphery, keeping us from seeing the tremendous value in the people right here.

Remember, the best memories are not made of money. The best memories are made of people and places. If you have money, spend it on memories. If you don’t have money, that’s ok too, because money’s certainly not a prerequisite for memories.

Remember, for this Christmas and the ones to come, the gifts won’t be remembered. Your presence will. Or your absence. Both of my parents are absent now; I can’t change that and neither can they. But while they still could, they gave me memories. And I do remember.

I remember my mother’s last Christmas. She was sick and we all knew it. That last Christmas morning, she sat on the couch and held a large stuffed bear and watched her children. And she smiled.

And that smile remains one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.


*from trotters.41.com

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About Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is a missionary in Southeast Asia, where he provides pastoral counseling at a local counseling center. He also serves as one of the pastors at an international church. Before moving to the field with his wife of sixteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | www.trotters41.com | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41
  • Richelle Wright

    I agree… 100% for me… and 100% with the sentiment/intention behind this piece. But if you are (or you love) someone who says “I love you” (or who feels loved) by the giving/receiving of gifts – and I happen to know a few pretty intimately – then the exclusion/downplaying of that “language” could be hurtful.

  • ahma1953

    The truth indeed!

  • Allie

    Thanks for your post!
    I really winced at your “For Christ’s sake…” Honestly, you could have done without that and still made your point.

    • Sherril

      II know Jonathan and his whole family. I remember his mother and father, and my husband and I had several of his younger siblings in our Sunday school class for 2 year olds. More Godly people you would not find. I truly think if you read the phrase ‘for the sake of Christ’……you will see the intended meaning. It’s the world that uses it wrongly. Losing both of his parents at ages we feel as terribly wrong was a huge blow to this family. However, in spite of what, I’m sure, the private tears were, Jonathan had the maturity and courage to actually speak at his mother’s funeral. He led singing in worship the morning his father died. Because, he said, that’s where they would have wanted him to be, and that’s where God put him. Though he is still a young man, he has always shown a wisdom and maturity far beyond his years. That can only come from a deep, abiding faith in our Lord. So, ‘for the sake of Christ’, I pray for him, his family, and their work. Sincerely, Sherril Sego and ‘Mr. Pat’!

  • Guest

    Love the article but the quote for Christ sake” upset me because of my home that’s blasphemy

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