Three bags of coins in a window


Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday was St. Nicholas Day, a holiday made dear to my heart by my Pop-Pop, who was of German extraction.  Bugaboo is just barely old enough to remember Pop-Pop’s last St. Nicholas Day, when he gave us the gift of his last harmonica performance before emphysema stole the breath he needed to play the melodies he’d puffed out since his own childhood.  I can still smell the sandwiches that lay untouched on his table and hear the strains of tunes whose names I never knew, see the fascination in Bugaboo and Beanie’s eyes, feel my mother’s trembling shoulder under my hand.

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We celebrate the saint’s memorial with bags of gold-wrapped chocolate coins and stories about St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, and acts of charity by lesser known persons, some real, some fictional.  The story of the widow with her two copper coins is always part of our festivities.  As the girls enjoyed their little candy treats yesterday morning, waiting for Mr. Man and Baby Guy to awaken, we talked about how important it is to share our blessings, and after we read the short biography of St. Nicholas in their children’s book of saints, we also talked about how something that is relatively little to us can mean salvation for someone who has been otherwise blessed.  Three bags of gold were not a large amount of money to Nicholas of Myra, but to the three young women whose father lacked the funds to pay their dowries, it was the difference between being sold as prostitutes and being able to live as free women with husbands and children.  Rightly did both father and daughters praise the saint for his charity, for his recognition that what was of small value to him was a lifeline to them, for his desire to give his gift in secret.

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After we had read a half-dozen or so stories, the boys began to stir, and I busied myself filling sippy cups with milk and putting bread in the toaster for their breakfast.  As I worked, Bugaboo quietly asked, “Mommy, when we put coins in the basket at church or in buckets at the store, are we being like St. Nicholas?”

“Yes.  That’s why we do it.  People like St. Nicholas remind us that it always matters when we share our blessings.”

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Beanie piped up, “Is that why we give the old toys and coats and blankets away?”

“Yes.  It’s also why we don’t give our name when we do it.  We want to give our gifts in secret, for the joy of giving them, not so anyone can tell us we’re doing a good thing.  Jesus tells us we’re doing a good thing.  It doesn’t really matter what anybody else thinks.”

Both girls were quiet for a moment, then Bugaboo added, “I have one chocolate coin left.  I’m going to put it here for Mr. Man, but don’t tell him it’s mine, okay?”

“Okay, Bugaboo.  That’s very generous of you.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your friend Nicholas, the patron saint of children, Russia, and sailors.  Thank You for the lips that passed his history down through the ages, and for the hands that committed the stories to paper.  Help us teach Your blessings that You sent these stalwart defenders and examples of our faith that we might learn from their lives and acts.  Please fill our hearts with humility so that when we share Your largesse, we do so for love of You, and not for love of the adulation of other people, and let every coin we give bear Your image to the person whose need is met by it.

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