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A lifetime of gifts

PD Publisher Alan Leavitt Published on 07 December 2012


I love the Christmas season and being reminded of the greatest of all gifts to mankind, the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, even the Christ child. Many sights, sounds, smells and events bring back a flood of good memories of Christmases past.



I’ll never forget one Christmas as a young boy, when I was out of touch with the concept of time. I confused the 23rd of December to be Christmas Eve day, waking on the 24th to find out that Christmas was actually the next day. Now that was a long 24 hours, let me tell you.

Every year for the past 20 years, my wife has given each of our children – up until their first year of college – an ornament for the Christmas tree, which they will be able to take with them when they “leave the nest” and start their own family traditions.

A lot of thought goes into these individual ornaments, customizing them to each child’s interests or unique experiences of that year. For example, the year one of our daughters got her driver’s license, her ornament was a little photo keychain. The year another daughter skied into the only tree on Pomerelle Mountain, resulting in an ambulance trip to the hospital in Burley, Idaho, she received an ornament of a bear on skis.

The year our best-ever family dog and companion joined the family, the ornament was a dog. (That ornament is more meaningful now, because after 12 faithful years, he passed a few months ago). There have been lots of princess ornaments because we have five daughters; some were sports-related because our son enjoys sports.

Taken individually, they don’t seem particularly significant perhaps; but now a favorite family tradition is decorating the Christmas tree with these ornaments. The comments I hear are interesting and revealing. “Oh, I remember that year; I was in fourth grade!” “I can’t believe I somehow found the only tree on that mountain. How did I do that?!” “He was such a good dog!” “I can’t believe I wore my hair like that. What was I thinking?!”


This year’s ornament gifts were unique as well. Each child’s ornament is a piece of an olive wood Nativity set made in Israel’s Bethlehem. The tag reads, “This beautiful wood comes from olive trees, the type that grew in Gethsemane and around Jerusalem where Jesus walked. Every two years the olive trees are pruned so that they bear fruit. Christian craftsmen living in Bethlehem make these beautiful pieces from these prunings.” (We purchased the ornaments from EarthWood. Click here to visit their website.)

The night my wife and I gave the gifts to each child, we had a short family discussion about olive trees, while looking at pictures of them and learning more about their uniqueness. I was unaware that if they are not pruned every two years, they will quickly grow out of control, bearing no fruit and being “good for nothing.” But if they are taken care of, they will yield tremendously. They thrive in harsh environments of poor soil, drought and weather extremes. They are extremely long-lived and bear fruit regardless of their age.

You might guess where this has led my thinking during this most wondrous of all seasons. God has given each of us a lifetime of gifts that need constant tending and nourishment. Given proper time and attention, these gifts enrich our lives and the lives of all with whom we associate.

These gifts are spiritual (our relationship with God), physical (health, strength, senses), intellectual (understanding how things work, skills for a career), but I believe some of our greatest gifts are – or can be – our relationships with family, loved ones and friends. As we nourish them with our best efforts and attitude, those gifts become stronger, deeper, more meaningful and more appreciated and a springboard to even greater gifts and treasures.

My hope, for myself and each of us this Christmas and New Year, is to identify the gifts in our lives. Strengthen and make better any that suffer from neglect, then treasure them up and give thanks for them. PD



Alan Leavitt
Progressive Dairyman magazine