It really was an ugly little tree. Its faded green branches shed pine needles like flaky skin, and it had absolutely no trunk to speak of. My roommates had gotten it from the lot right across from our apartment complex. I hadn’t even known that a tree lot existed there.
The tree was placed in a white mixing bowl with a bag of rocks to help keep it in place, and then the mixing bowl was put into a brown 9×13 baking pan. Even with the rocks, mixing bowl, and pan it fell over. My roommates tried taping the base of the tree to the mixing bowl with blue duct tape, but it still didn’t stop the tree from toppling over during the Christmas devotional, leaving a blanket of pine needles all over the living room floor.
One roommate took it upon herself to place a few small ornaments and a string of white lights on the tree in an attempt to make it look nicer. Tiny silver baubles and a couple of green, glittery stocking ornaments now hung on the tree, but it only made it worse. Now it just looked like a halfhearted Christmas effort.
The tree now lay heaped against a bookshelf in the corner, its branches flailing upward like the legs of a centipede sprawled on its back. I had to laugh when I looked at it. It looked as much out of place as a brown stick in a bouquet of roses. It was dismal—a sad, feeble attempt at bringing Christmas into a tiny, cramped college apartment.
But as I looked at it one day, forgotten and lying against the bookcase, it suddenly struck me how sad and lonely the tree looked. If trees had feelings, this little one would have been crying. The thought didn’t exactly put me in the Christmas spirit.
And then suddenly, I was reminded of one of my very favorite Christmas films called A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the movie, Charlie Brown is told to go and get a tree for a Christmas play. When Charlie Brown chooses a tiny tree that looks like a twig with a few pine needles, the other kids tell him he’s stupid and add, “What kind of a tree is that?”
Charlie Brown takes the tree home, and the other children follow him. Linus says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” Then the children all help to make the little tree beautiful with decorations and Christmas lights.
I thought about the movie for a bit. Then I thought, “Maybe our little tree isn’t so different from the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe all it needs is a little love.”
The next day while I was out buying groceries, I stopped by the dollar store. I didn’t have much extra to spend, so I carefully picked out a set of glittering gold and silver ornaments, five teddy bears, a red felt tree skirt, two spools of shimmering gold ribbon, and a package of candy canes.
Then, upon coming back to my apartment and with Frank Sinatra Christmas music playing in the background, I began to decorate the tree. First, I stood it upright. The tree already looked a little happier. Then I began winding the golden ribbon around and around, starting at the tree’s base and working up until the ribbon reached the very top branch.
At first, it didn’t help much. There were too many gaps in the tree for the ribbon to fill in. But I kept going, placing the gold and silver ornaments on the tree and rearranging the other small ornaments my roommate had already put on. I wrapped the red felt skirt over the mixing bowl, making sure to cover all the duct tape. Last of all, I placed the five teddy bears and candy canes under the tree as presents for my roommates.
Then I switched on the tree lights. And there, glowing before me, was not the same little tree that had leaned so cheerlessly against the bookshelf an hour before. It now stood tall, sparkling with the new ribbon and ornaments as if smiling and saying, “Thank you.”
Looking at the decorated tree now, I think to myself, “Aren’t we all a little like Charlie Brown Christmas trees? Don’t we all just need a little love?” So many people in the world are just like the faded tree my roommates brought home. They lay in corners, sad and forgotten, wishing that someone would come along and show them a little love.
The greatest love of all came into the world one night in a small stable and was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The Savior Jesus Christ was not born in a beautiful palace or given costly apparel, and yet with His love, He stands us upright and makes us glow, transforming our ragged hearts into joyful souls.
Just a little compassion can go a long way. It only took ten dollars and one hour of my time to make a sad little tree into something that shone beautifully and brightly. Just think of how your own love could make someone glow like that.
With the Savior’s love and with the love from our fellow men, we do not need to feel small and insignificant. We can feel radiant knowing that we are loved and cherished. And with our own love, we can truly transform those around us, helping them upright to see their true worth and the light within themselves, just as the Savior does for us.