Day 17: Words to Grow On


On this, the 17th day of Advent, Norman Vincent Peale shares a valuable lesson his father taught him at Christmastime when Dr. Peale was just 10 years old...

23 Days of Advent with Guideposts founder Norman Vincent Peale

Day 17: Words to Grow On

One Christmas Eve when I was about 10 or so, my father and I were passing Burkhart’s Department Store in Cincinnati when a dirty old fellow in a tattered coat stopped me, took hold of my sleeve and said, “Young man, give me something.”

I pulled my arm away, gave the man a slight push and walked on, nose in the air.

My father stopped short. “You shouldn’t treat a man like that—Christmas Eve or any other time.”

“But Dad,” I said, “he’s a bum.”

“There is no such thing as a bum, Norman,” my father said. “There may be some people who haven’t made the most of their lives, but all of us are still children of God.”

Then he took out his skinny old wallet—it never had much in it—and he handed me a dollar. And he said, “You catch up with that man. Tell him, ‘Sir, I give you this dollar in the name of Jesus. Merry Christmas.’ “

“Oh, no,” I said. “I can’t do that.” He said, “You do as I tell you, boy.”

In those days you really minded what your parents told you.

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So I chased after the man and said, “Sir, I give you this dollar in the name of Jesus. Merry Christmas.”

The old fellow was flabbergasted. He took off his beat-up old cap and bowed to me and said, “I thank you, young sir. Merry Christmas.”

In that moment, his face became beautiful to me. He was no longer a bum.

Well, all this happened many years ago, but I remember it vividly because my father gave me such a clear demonstration of the new commandment Jesus brought to us.

“Love one another,” Jesus said in John 13:34, No ifs, ands or buts. No reservations. And that’s how Jesus loved. He loved the poor, the diseased, the prostitutes, the criminals, the “bums.” He loved those who ridiculed, hated and abused Him. To me, Christmas is about that way of loving.

If you are looking for words to grow on, let me tell you that you’ll never grow taller, nor wiser, nor more beautiful than when you’re putting those three words to work.

Love one another.

This story first appeared in the December 1984 edition of Guideposts.

Read the Day 16 entry | Read the Day 18 entry