Marie and Jon decided to substitute a trip to a tropical island instead of purchasing presents for everyone. Their teenage son, Ryan, and daughter, Jessie, heartily agreed and had worked all summer at odd jobs so that they would have money to spend. It had been getting difficult to get everyone together and Marie thought the vacation would force them all to be together. That didn’t seem to be the case. They had chosen an island with a wide variety of things to do. The problem was that their family also had a wide variety of interests. Marie didn’t want to restrict them during the vacation of a lifetime, especially when they had worked so hard for it. In a week they would all be heading back to snow and gray skies. Was it so important that they spend all of their time together? Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it was to Marie. Both of their children were spending more time with people they had never seen before, and would probably never see again, than they were with their family.
To Marie’s way of thinking, if they wanted to spend more time with their children, they would have to join in some of the activities their children liked. Jon didn’t like that idea. He said they planned the trip so that they could all have fun and they couldn’t expect everyone to like the same things.
Outvoted, Marie resigned herself to enjoying the vacation with Jon. The children were required to contact them either in person or by cell phone every two hours. They had a curfew, so everyone was together at night. Thus they enjoyed the week before Christmas.
Christmas Eve they were all going to attend a festival, but Marie insisted that everyone be home for Christmas. Ryan and Jessie didn’t object, but asked if they could each bring a guest. Both Marie and Jon agreed, though they wondered why their children’s new friends weren’t spending time with their families.
At the festival, Ryan introduced their new friends.
“Mom, Dad; this is Alana and Hoaka. This is our Mom and Dad.” He winked. “I’ll let you guess which is which.”
Marie was speechless for a few moments. Alana was a petite girl in a pink floral dress and Hoaka was a young man almost as tall as Jon. Both were islanders, not tourists, as Marie expected. Their clothes were old and worn, but they were clean. The two teens acknowledged the introduction respectfully, but they were otherwise quiet and reserved. Part of her surprise was the simple fact that the two were not at all like the kind of people Ryan and Jessie usually befriended.
Alana gave them a shy smile. “We are honored by the invitation to share Christmas lunch with you. Ryan and Jessie have been taking us many places that we have never been able to go.”
Marie looked at Jon, but he looked as surprised as she was. Marie found her voice. “But this is your island, isn’t it?”
Hoaka nodded. “Yes, but the orphanage didn’t have the money for each of us to go to the tourist events.”
“The orphanage?” Marie parroted.
Ryan reclaimed the conversation. “They were both brought up in an orphanage here on the island. We met the first day at the restaurant where they were working. We’ve been helping at the orphanage until they get off work and then we all go places together. It’s been a blast!”
That evening when they were alone with Ryan and Jessie, they discovered that both the teens had been using half their money to pay for excursions for the two orphans. Jessie’s explanation made Marie feel ashamed.
“Mom, I don’t know how I could have been so naive. I thought everyone on the island lived like the tourists. Why didn’t I realize they were people just like us?”
Marie hugged her. “Nor did I.” She looked at Ryan. “I’m so proud of you both. You have reminded me that being together at Christmas isn’t as important as helping others. You have shown us the true spirit of Christmas.”