The gift is in the giving
The gift is in the giving
Joy Lucius
Joy Lucius
AFA Journal staff writer

Above, stock photo

December 2021During her shift at a nursing home, a nurse watched residents open Christmas gifts. She saw an old man in a wheelchair receive his gift, but he just set it on his lap without opening it. Instead, he joyfully watched everyone else open their gifts.

“Could I help you open your gift?” the nurse asked the elderly man.

“No,” he replied. “There’s no need; I already know what it is – a tie.”

He continued, “Every year my family sends me the same gift, but they never visit.”

Realizing her patient had been abandoned by family, the nurse quietly asked, “What would you like for Christmas?”

“My own can of shaving cream,” he answered.

Touched by the simplicity of the lonely man’s desire, she purchased the gift for him.

So began a holiday tradition for this nurse, purchasing simple gifts for patients forgotten at Christmastime.

A model for giving
David and Tim Barton, the father-son leadership team of WallBuilders, shared with AFA Journal how this nurse’s story inspired an ongoing ministry tradition.

AFA Journal: How did you discover this nurse’s story?
The Bartons: Years ago, interspersed between Christmas songs on a local station, we heard listener testimonies of Christmas traditions. She shared her story from the previous Christmas.

AFAJ: How did her story impact you?
TB: The next day, we asked staff to find every nearby nursing and retirement center, talk to staff, and locate residents that would receive no Christmas gift. We were shocked at how many facilities were filled with “wards of the state.”

With no living family to care for them, the state takes charge of these patients, providing minimal care. We found one home with dozens of such patients – military veterans who were abandoned or had outlived family.

Many were living at or below poverty level and had no Christmas at all. Several facilities could not afford Christmas trees or decorations.

AFAJ: How did this discovery affect your plans?
TB: It was inconceivable for these patients to have no traditional Christmas celebration in their waning years of life, celebrations undoubtedly enjoyed heartily in their youth. So we asked every center’s staff to find out what each abandoned resident wanted for Christmas.

Nearly every request was simple, and we bought what they asked for – everything from crossword puzzle books to new underwear to a belt, sweatshirt, or blanket. For veterans, we added military gifts such as hats, coffee mugs, and pens, donated by military recruiting offices.

After wrapping each gift, our staff delivered them. We also provided Christmas trees and decorations for needy facilities. Each center’s staff happily organized a full-fledged Christmas event where every resident received their own gifts.

This continues to be a Christmas tradition at WallBuilders.

AFAJ: Has the tradition changed over the years?
TB: Over the years, we have adopted several facilities, and it takes a lot of staff work to get proper clothing sizes and colors and wrap all the gifts, but we would not change this tradition.

Seeing how elderly, disabled, or handicapped patients respond to little things that so many of us take for granted is a greater blessing for us than it is for those who receive the gifts.    

More about WallBuilders
WallBuilders reacquaints Americans with the nation’s history and heroes and encourages citizens to rebuild its religious, moral, and constitutional foundations. Learn more at

 Available at resources.afa.netAFA Cultural Institute: God in the Constitution with David Barton examines our Constitution’s religious roots.