It’s a cheap ornament — sparkly in the way that excess glitter provides. It has a fake green leaf coming out of an apple-shaped piece of Styrofoam. It wouldn’t be something I’d buy to put on my Christmas tree, but it was given to me by someone who had very little to give. Let me explain.
Big Mike was a teddy bear kind of guy. He had the mental development of perhaps a teen but was forty-something. He loved Sundays because it meant he could be driven to church, and he’d attend both services just to listen to the music and be enveloped by the love he felt there. He’d wave at everyone and was as enthusiastic as any pastor could hope for out of someone sitting in the congregation.
Big Mike lived in an apartment building designed for adults needing extra assistance. He had a dorm-like room, with just the essentials — a small bathroom, a tiny table, and an old recliner chair. A TV hung on an adjacent wall. His bed was two saggy mattresses on the floor. Big Mike was a large guy, and his bed fell victim to his weight.
My husband, Tom had befriended Big Mike — and Tom would often be Mike’s church chauffeur. As such, they got to know one another and Big Mike, with this genuine-hearted love, invited him up to see his “home”. When Tom saw his bed, he asked Mike if he needed something better to sleep on.
This was when I got invited into Big Mike’s room. Tom and I hauled off the two saggy mattresses and brought in a double-sized mattress and box spring. We placed it on a sturdy frame. I put fresh sheets on it and gave him some extra blankets I had. The delight on Big Mike’s face is something I’ll always remember.
As we prepared to leave, Big Mike went to a fake Christmas tree that sat on his tiny table. It only had about five ornaments on it. He went straight to a glittery-red apple and handed it to me. “Tom sells lots of apples at his job. He should have this.”
I took the ornament and thanked him for such a sweet gift. Big Mike smiled his tender smile, coming straight from a heart that loved so authentically. He died suddenly the following spring. None of us had a chance to say goodbye. But every year when I decorate the tree, I put that glittery red apple ornament on a branch and remember Big Mike. His gift reminds me that what matters most isn’t all the fancy glitter on the outside, but the real love on the inside.