Max Anderson

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sense the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. He’s also begun a traditional series. Seven books are published, with an additional twenty-nine manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an exciting or scary movie. Visit Max at: Books for Boys Blog, Author Web Site, Video - Captain Jack's Treasure, or My Youtube Videos.

Max Anderson

No Presents This Year?

Picture this. As the most special day of the year―besides my birthday―came closer, something happened that would change the way I looked at Christmas for the rest of my life. This particular Christmas took place over fifty years ago, when I was just a boy.

I grew up in a family of seven children. We knew that when it came to presents, we could never expect to get everything on our lists. But each Christmas we submitted them to our parents anyway, hoping for something big that year. That special day was less than three weeks away, and our lists were in.

Because I had so many brothers and sisters, my parents began saving Christmas money months in advance. Much of my father’s income came from freelance writing, a few books he had written, and films he produced and directed.

A special missionary speaker came to our church that December. He owned a big ship that he used to reach out to Eskimo villages. “Many of these people have nothing, especially the children,” he reported.

My parents invited the missionary to Eskimos to our house for dinner. This man had all sorts of wild stories about his ship, storms he had weathered, and the people he wanted to reach. “Their needs are great,” he reminded us later, “especially the children’s. Many of them will have nothing for Christmas.”

I looked at the large family sitting around the table and thought our needs were pretty great too. Besides, Christmas was coming. I’d already handed in my list, and now dreaming about what I’d get was all I could think about. When it came to Christmas and presents, it’s fair to say that I was, more or less, just as selfish as the next ten-year-old boy.

The missionary went on his way, and life returned to normal for the next few days . . . or so I thought.

Then something more dramatic than any of my dad’s films happened, and I’ll never forget it. Dad called out in his loudest voice, “Family meeting! Family meeting!”

Anyone growing up in our house knew that “family meeting” always meant that something big, really big, was about to happen. We’d have a family meeting when it was time to buy a new car, our first TV, when my dad received a big royalty check, or we were going on vacation. When we heard “family meeting,” we nearly broke our necks running to the living room. I slid into my place on the floor and wondered if this was the year I would get everything on my list. But I noticed serious looks on my parents’ faces. Sometimes in family meeting, we had to talk about a difficult subject. Those times were called Family Council.

“Mom and I have something important to discuss with you,” my father began, “and your vote will help us decide what to do.”

I swallowed hard, not sure my ears liked what they just heard.

“You remember when the captain was here and told us about the needs in the Eskimo villages?”

My eyes darted around to my brothers and sisters. Most were staring down at the floor.

“Well,” my mother added, “we were wondering if our family shouldn’t do something to help.”

“Like what?” my older sister asked.

My father smiled. “We thought about taking the money we’d set aside for presents this year and sending that to him for the children he told us about.”

My voice barely squeaked, “All of it?”

They both nodded. It felt like my throat had just squeezed shut, and a sick feeling twisted my stomach. But this is Christmas, our Christmas.

“So, what do you think?” my father asked.

I was sure they didn’t want to know what was really going through my head at that moment. But we began to talk about it as a family. And the missionary’s words came back to my mind. “The needs are great, especially the children’s. Many of them will have nothing for Christmas.”

We lived in Michigan where a white Christmas was never in doubt. The smell of our Christmas tree, already sitting over in the corner of the very room where we would cast our votes, had no presents under it.

No Christmas presents! Then, one by one, hands began going up to vote yes on mailing our happy Christmas away to some Eskimo kids we’d never meet. I could hardly believe it as I watched my own hand go up. The vote was unanimous. That money was Christmas as far as the Anderson children were concerned, and it was gone.

Then something else happened on Christmas Eve day that we still talk about. Again we heard, “Family meeting!” A second family meeting had never come so close on the heels of the previous meeting. When we raced to the living room this time, our parents had broad smiles on their faces.

“We have the most wonderful news,” my dad said. He held up an envelope. “I received a check in the mail today for a story I had long forgotten about.

My mother’s eyes glistened, her voice cracked with emotion. “And it is exactly the same amount as we sent for the Eskimo children!”

Well, you have never seen such an excited bunch of people in your life. My parents rushed out to do their Christmas shopping. And they were gone for a long, long time.

Our family had Christmas that year after all. Of course, it would have been Christmas anyway, but the presents just made it that much better. Around the tree that night, our parents told us that because we were unselfish, and they waited to shop until the night before Christmas, everything was 50 percent or more off. We got twice as much that year as any Christmas before or since.

With the increasing commercial hype surrounding Christmas, it’s easy, especially for children, to get caught up in thinking about the presents they’ll receive. What my family and I experienced that year, when we thought there would be no presents, taught us that a greater understanding of the spirit of Christmas can be found in giving.


Captain Jack's Treasure