Editor’s note: This is the conclusion of a “Money Today” column that ran in December.


The thought of receiving 12 Christmas presents over the next few weeks had been very exciting to Tim. His “Bah, humbug” attitude had been replaced with anticipation as each day something new would arrive.

But the first day did not go as planned after bringing the new wire welder home.

Anticipating the gift had been more exciting than receiving it. With nothing of his own to weld, helping out his neighbor in need had made Tim feel good.

The second Christmas present was chrome and new tires for his pickup. Tim was sure the upgrade would make him more socially acceptable while parked at the co-op. When he showed up at the shop, he was feeling a little guilty about the purchase. It was a week and a half before Christmas and the store was very busy.

As he waited in line at the counter, a young farmer was standing ahead of him. It was easy to overhear the conversation.

The farmer’s truck had already been in the shop for a new starter. Now it needed work on the front end and two new tires. It was clear that the price was more than the young farmer could afford. He and the employee went outside to dig through a used tire pile to see if he could find something to get by.

When Tim made it up to the counter, he was waited on by the manager. They were old friends. Tim asked about the young farmer’s story.

The manager said it had been a tough year and he had lost many beef calves in the spring from a late snowstorm. Tim thought for a moment and then asked how much it would cost to fix the young farmer’s truck. The price was about the same as what Tim was going to spend on chrome and rims to dress up his truck.

Tim asked the manager to see the bill for the young farmer and then wrote a check. After the manager promised to keep the act of kindness a secret, Tim walked out of the store and drove his unadorned truck back home. His heart was light, and he was happy for the second day in a row.

On the third day of Christmas, Tim was scheduled to receive an upgrade for the “man cave” in his shop. It consisted of a larger table and some comfortable padded chairs so that he and his friends could sit and play cards. There was also a new refrigerator and a large TV.

As he stood in the shop thinking about the upgrades, he again felt selfish. But the purchases had been made and so he headed into town to pick up his gifts.

Tim wandered around the store for a while before going to the service counter. In a moment of inspiration, he told the employee he would like to change his order. He kept the table but opted for some less expensive chairs and got 12 of them. He also bought a hot chocolate machine and a large popcorn machine, like the kind you see at movie theaters.

On the way home Tim decided that every Tuesday morning for the rest of winter he would invite some of the neighbors over for donuts. In the next few weeks, word spread of Tim’s donut discussions and more and more people started to arrive.

In the beginning Tim supplied the hot chocolate and donuts. As time went by, people learned that the price of coming was to bring a dozen donuts. It was probably not so good for their waistlines, but the visiting was enjoyable for everyone.

The new popcorn maker was a real treat on evenings when Tim’s grandkids came over to watch a movie in his man cave.

The Christmas gift on the fourth day was the new Gator. Tim enjoyed this gift and didn’t feel guilty about the purchase. As he parked the new gator in the shed the first night, he considered what he might do with it.

Before going to bed, an idea came to him. Tim made up a Christmas card for each of his 10 grandchildren. Inside the card was a coupon each grandchild could redeem. It entitled them to a day with Grandpa, riding the Gator wherever they would like.

Over the next few months this gift turned out to be very popular. Three of the teenage grandchildren pooled their trips together and made a three-day adventure with grandpa during the summer. They camped at night and spent the days going through muddy trails, getting stuck and dirty and having a great time.

Tim’s Christmas present for the fifth day was the one that prompted his bad dream. The more he thought about a new couch for their living room, the more he was sure his wife would be extremely disappointed if he showed up with a couch full of electronics and cup holders. A couch of magnificent size would dominate the entire living room.

Instead of buying a couch, Tim decided he would take his wife to the furniture store.

He called the manager, giving her a heads up that there might be a change in his purchase when they arrived. He did not tell his wife where they were going, and so she was surprised when they pulled up to the store and he announced that her Christmas present was to buy whatever her heart desired for the house that day. She looked at him completely shocked and somewhat baffled at his generosity.

For almost two hours, Tim and his wife looked at everything from beds to appliances and artwork for the walls. She settled on a large dining room table with 8 chairs and leaves that could expand so their entire family could sit at the table at the same time.

She also picked out a new mattress. She knew Tim had not been sleeping well at night and thought perhaps it was the mattress that was causing the problem. She did not know it was really his conscience keeping him from enjoying his sleep.

Tim’s remaining days of Christmas continued. With a little creativity Tim was able to exchange or find new purpose for almost all the gifts he selfishly desired in the beginning.

On the 12th day of Christmas, Tim’s last gift was ready. He had decided to go elk hunting in Colorado. Since none of his friends were interested, he found an outfitter and chose to go by himself. He was a social guy and was sure he could make friends and hunt with someone else when he got there.

But on the morning of Christmas Eve, Tim drove back into town before all the stores closed. He stopped at a travel agency and booked a cruise for him and his wife. She had always wanted to take a cruise through the Western Caribbean and visit some famous sites.

Tim decided his elk trip could wait a little longer and couldn’t wait to surprise his wife.

On Christmas Day, Tim presented her with the trip. She looked at him wondering what had come over this man that she had lived with for the last 40 years. What had made him change so much over the last few weeks? She wondered why he was so happy.

Sometimes the shiny new things we want do not provide any real warmth or value within them. Tim learned that helping others and spending time with his family could lighten his heart and bring some true joy back into his life. His 12 days of Christmas led to many great new experiences.


Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at plans@bobdunaway.com.

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