It was the Christmas of 1952, I was 8 years old.  There was only one item on my Christmas list that year, it was a yellow scale model of a log truck made by the Toy Company.  It was about 18 inches long with the trailer retracted, almost thirty inches with the trailer loaded with logs. It was magnificent piece of work.  The front wheels actually turned with a horn like knob mounted on the hood, like a hood ornament.  The wheels seemed like they were inflated though I doubt they really were.

I wanted this log truck unlike anything else in my life. My dad was a logger, and it was every son’s dream to, in some way, emulate his father. I needed that truck. What made matters a little envious for me, was that my cousins had three of them.  Their father—my uncle—was also a logger.  Yes, when we visited I would get to play with them but it wasn’t the same as having one of your own.

I made my Christmas list, and made sure Santa knew exactly what I wanted. Now, an eight-year-old boy knows very little about family finances.  We were never poor. I always had food, clothing, a dry roof and plenty of toys to keep me busy.  This particular year, things must have been a little lean because there were a lot of beans and ground beef or venison, as it were.  I did not particularly care for venison burger.  However, an eight-year-old boy doesn’t make the association between lean times and Santa’s ability to bring the items on his Christmas list.

The long-awaited night arrived.  The presents were stacked neatly under the Christmas tree.  My concern was somewhat aroused by the fact that there was not, under the tree, a present big enough to contain the beloved log truck I had desperately awaited for. It was not unusual for parents to wait until the last minute to bring out additional gifts, some unwrapped with just a bow.  Surely this was to be the case.

Mom suggested that my sister and I go to our rooms for awhile.  Aha…that was to insure time to uncover or deliver to the tree those last minute surprise gifts.  I knew it; I could hardly stand it, waiting for mom to give the word to come out.  Finally, after what seemed like ages, mom announced Santa had come and we could come out of our room and see what Santa had left on our behalf.

I charged out of my room heading for the tree, eyes keenly surveying all the gifts, looking, looking…looking…Hmmm. It wasn’t there. “Is this all?”  I asked.

“What do you mean, Is this all?” said mom.  “Looks to me like Santa has done well.”   

Trying to hide my disappointment, I agreed. We proceeded to open gifts, one at a time, oohing and ahhing over each item opened.

I don’t remember any specific items I got that Christmas. I do know that the yellow log truck was not one of them.  As the last present was open, dad said, “Oops, I forgot, there’s one more.”

And off he went out the door to the shop. He was back in a flash and in his hands was…well, it wasn’t yellow, it was green, and it wasn’t the one I had hoped for.  But there in dad’s hands was a green log truck…as he handed it to me he said, “Be a little careful, I’m not sure the paint is completely dry yet.”

So this is what he had been doing in the shop those cold evenings.  I set the truck down on the floor and just looked at it.  It wasn’t what I expected.  I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad. I looked it over carefully. It had genuine rubber wheels, with a moveable and adjustable trailer. It looked pretty authentic carved and cut with detail. Impressive—and dad had made it just for me.

The next morning I couldn’t wait to try it out and try it out I did.  The ground was cold and frozen outside but when you got to haul logs you got to haul logs.  Well, I hauled a lot of logs on that green log truck. I believe I literally wore it out!  I never did get a yellow Toy Company log truck…I never even thought about it after that.  I had a green log truck, custom made, just for me.

I think back on that Christmas and realize how special that gift was. I didn’t get what I wanted but got what I needed.  That’s the way God, like a father, works.  God always deals with our needs, seldom our wants. What I needed on that Christmas was a gift from my dad, created and made by his own hands which illustrated the depth and fullness of his love for me.  A yellow, Toy Company Log truck would have been nice but would not have had the same impact or carried the same message. I’m eternally grateful for the ‘green trucks’ in my life.

This Christmas, don’t be surprised if you find a ‘green truck’ under the tree for you.  It may not be what you want but it most likely will be what you need…consider yourself blessed as I do.

(Reverend Curt McCormack is director of the Keizer Community Food Bank.)