An IRS Christmas Tale
When our thoughts turn to the Holiday Season, we usually don’t associate it with the Internal Revenue Service. This is a little tale that is true and unembellished in the telling, and though the role of the IRS is marginal, our story would have no point without it. Many years ago when Maureen and I were raising our three children, when the bills were abundant but the money was not, we would participate in the “Giving Tree” at our church at Christmas.
One Sunday after Mass, Maureen asked me to select one of the “ornaments” from the tree, which were made of color construction paper with the name of a gift for a needy family written on it. Alas, the ornaments were picked over so I took one of the few left. The deal was that we would buy the gift, which had to be new, and return it to the tree the following Sunday before Christmas with the paper ornament attached.
In previous years we would buy mittens or a scarf as indicated on the paper we chose. But when I got home and showed Maureen that year’s gift she was not pleased. “A woman’s winter jacket, medium!” she exclaimed. “What’s wrong with that?” I replied. Maureen let me know that a woman’s winter jacket was a lot more expensive than mittens or a scarf and we weren’t the people who should be tackling that. I was instructed to return it to the tree and find something less costly.
Of course, she was right. I don't know what I was thinking, maybe that we were part of the wealthy side of the Fells family. [Note: actually, we WERE the wealthy side of the Fells family!]. But the days slipped away and they don't call me the King of Passive Resistance for nothing. By the time Saturday rolled around, we planned to go out to the stores to complete our Christmas shopping. “Do you want me to return that ornament to the church?” I asked Maureen, subtly letting her know that I never did. “No,” she said with an air of weary resignation, “we’ll figure something out.”
After a while, we ended up at BJs and found a large rack of women’s winter jackets. All were priced at $34.99. “That’s not a bad price but I wonder how well made they are,” Maureen said. She tried one on and expressed surprise that they were quite nice. She decided that we could buy one of these jackets for our Giving Tree gift, and at 35 bucks we were getting off cheaply. Maureen then said that she thought these jackets were so nice for the price that she needed a new winter jacket herself. I was already feeling vindicated by our finding the gift with a reasonable price but now Maureen wanting a jacket for herself was the icing on the cake.
From BJs we drove home, our various errands and shopping for the day finished. I said that we would be making some lady very happy with that jacket and Maureen agreed, although lamented that it still cost more than we should have spent. Half-humorously, but half-serious too, I said that God always provides for those who give, returning to them more than they ever gave. Maureen expressed her hope that this might be the case.
Arriving home, I checked for the mail and found mostly junk. But there was one letter, a curious little brown window envelope. The return address read, “U.S. Department of the Treasury.” A little apprehensive, I opened the envelope to find a Treasury check made out to Maureen and myself. There was no letter but from the stamped codes and abbreviations I gathered this was a refund check for the tax return we had filed the previous March. But I remembered that we had to pay more taxes then, rather than apply for a refund.
Coming back into our home I announced to Maureen that we got an unexpected refund check from IRS. This had never happened to us before, and indeed, would never happen to us again. She asked the amount of the check and I asked her, “How much did we spend on the two jackets?” Maureen said they came to 70 dollars plus tax. I handed her the IRS check – it was for $70 exactly. We both felt a little dumbstruck as we recalled that God always provides for those who give, we just didn’t think it happened so promptly.