There was one last gift under the tree when we took the decorations down. I remember my wife and I looking at one another when we saw it. It was a small look followed by an even smaller one and punctuated by a shake of my head. We ended up putting it aside away from the children’s eyes. It now sits beneath the small table in front of our living room window. I suppose that’s where it’ll stay, at least for now.
It’s a box of chocolates. His favorite, from what I understand. The maroon wrapping paper is neatly folded over it. On the front is a tag. Written on it in the somewhat shaky hand of a child just getting her printing muscles sharpened is his name and the names of my two children.
The chocolates were supposed to have been delivered the last day of school before Christmas vacation. The man was a teacher’s aide, and a good one. He helped my wife during a few classes a day. She said he was a hard worker and good with the students. He helped in my daughter’s class as well, most recently on a science experiment that focused on constructing something that would keep an egg from breaking when dropped ten feet.
It snowed the night before that last day of school though, giving my kids an early Christmas present in the form of a snow day. I remember the kids were upset about that. My wife calmed them by saying they’d be able to give him his present the day they went back. It would be like stretching Christmas out and into the new year. They liked that idea.
Looking back, I wish it hadn’t snowed that day. I wish my kids would have gone to school. They would have gotten to give him his present. It may have been a nice goodbye.
Word came a few days after Christmas that he had quit to find a better job elsewhere. It was sad, but understandable. It’s tough making it these days. No one’s going to blame you for trying to find a better life.
Then, a few days later, came the news reports. First the television, then the paper.
He’d been arrested for allegedly molesting a child.
The school was quick to inform us the incident happened at the man’s home and seemed to be isolated. Neither of those facts offered much comfort. It seemed as though every time I walked into the living room, the first thing I’d see was that present.
It wasn’t a hard decision to keep the news from our children. They were still under the impression that he’d quit, and that was an impression we would leave in place. Unfortunately, other parents thought differently. On the first day back to school, one of my daughter’s classmates told her the man was in jail. Thankfully, she didn’t say why. That omission didn’t matter much to my daughter. Knowing someone you like very much is in jail is enough to break your heart. Why that person is there is irrelevant.
The Christian thing would be to pile the family in the truck and deliver it to his home. The news said he’s out on bail now and awaiting trial. I would imagine he would appreciate even a small gift of chocolates right about now. Whether he’s guilty or not, I’m sure he’s lonely.
That’s what Jesus would do.
Jesus might drive on over to that man’s house, give him a hug, and say I love you, but I can’t. I’m not Jesus. I’m just a dad who can’t stop thinking his family bought a Christmas present for someone who may be a child molester.
My mind keeps returning to the science experiment he and my daughter worked on. The one with the egg. Her team ended up using a concoction of toilet paper, cardboard, and marshmallows to catch the egg when it dropped. They won first place. Theirs was the only entry that kept the egg from breaking.
I wonder if he thought about that. I wonder if he realized eggs are like kids. Easily broken. That’s why you have to protect them. Why you have to love them and cherish them and do your best to keep the world away from them. Because the innocence they possess is the purest thing there is, and because they don’t have to be like you to enter the kingdom of heaven, you have to be like them.
I suppose he didn’t think of that. I wish he would have.
So I ask you, dear reader: What would you do with my box of chocolates?