When Money Can't Buy The Best Christmas Gift

Dec 22, 2017
Originally published on December 22, 2017 1:32 pm

It was Christmas of 2001, and Thompson Williams' family was struggling financially. "That year we used all our money just before Christmas so that we could pay the bills and buy groceries — at least we'd have something to eat," he tells his son, Kiamichi-tet at StoryCorps.

Thompson was teaching students with special needs, and his wife was selling handmade Christmas ornaments. They lived in Edmond, Okla., with Kiamichi-tet, then 11, and their daughter AuNane, 14.

At the time, Thompson was offered another job with a higher salary. But if he took it, he says, "I wouldn't be home with my family, and I wouldn't be working with the special ed kids that I worked with; they would have to do without me. And I had convinced myself that this was the best thing to do because my kids needed Christmas."

So he sat down Kiamichi-tet and AuNane to tell them he would accept the new job. "You were real quiet," Thomson tells Kiamichi-tet, "and then AuNane looked at me, and she said, 'Dad, your kids need you more than we need presents.' "

"And so I told AuNane, 'OK, I'll continue to work with the special ed kids.' And you and AuNane both hugged me," he says.

In that moment, Thompson says, "I was so proud because my kids knew what sacrifice was. And a week later, people started buying your mom's ornaments and we had money to buy you guys presents. But it felt good that Christmas. I knew you were going to be good kids. It made me proud."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's the Friday before Christmas and time for StoryCorps. Today, holiday memories from Edmond, Okla. Thompson Williams talks with his son Kiamichi-tet about Christmas in 2001.

Kiamichi-tet was 11 years old. And his sister AuNane was 14. And the family was struggling. At the time, Thompson was teaching students with special needs. And his wife was selling handmade Christmas ornaments.

THOMPSON WILLIAMS: That year, we used all our money just before Christmas so that we could pay the bills and buy groceries, at least we'd have something to eat. I'd been offered a job. It'd be a lot more money, but I wouldn't be home with my family. And I wouldn't be working with the special ed kids that I work with. They would have to do without me. And I had convinced myself that this was the best thing to do because my kids needed Christmas.

So I took you and AuNane in the room, sat down with the guys and told you. You were real quiet. And then AuNane looked at me. She said, Dad, your kids need you more than we need presents. And so I told AuNane, OK, I'll continue to work with the special ed kids. And you and AuNane both hugged me. That was a time when I was so proud because my kids knew what sacrifice was. And a week later, people started buying your mom's ornaments. And we had money to buy you guys presents. But it felt good that Christmas. I knew you were going to be good kids. Made me proud.

MARTIN: That was Thompson Williams with his son Kiamichi-tet. Their conversation will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress with the rest of the StoryCorps collection. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.