The Lopsided Poinsettia

by Sandi Banks

With Christmas waiting in the wings, my 10-year-old heart bubbled over with excitement—not at what I’d be getting, but what I’d be giving.

Our Girl Scout Troop 362 busily prepared for an outing to the Denver Convalescent Home—a memorable night of caroling and gift giving. Our annual visits seemed special to those folks. Even when we messed up lyrics or sang off-key, they still liked us. We made them smile, and they did the same for us.

I dubbed that year, “The Year of the Poinsettia.” We labored for weeks, crafting our crimson wonders out of crepe paper, flowerpots, colored foil, sphagnum moss, wire, and ribbons.

I wanted my gift to be perfect, but I had a problem. My artwork was usually the object of someone’s best guess: “Oh look, our little Sandi sculpted a rooster out of clay;” “No, dear, I think it’s a buffalo, or maybe a dump truck.” This time, I longed for someone to say, “Oh look, a poinsettia, a perfect gift!”

So, I worked extra hours, meticulously molding, gluing, and tending to every detail. At last, I deemed it perfect. I couldn’t wait to give it away.

The night finally arrived, and so did the fifty-two of us, sporting our green uniforms and clutching our red poinsettias, completing the Christmas palette beautifully.

Moving down the corridors, room by room, we caroled our hearts out, while I diligently searched for that special someone—the one who most needed my perfect gift.

Entering the doorway at the end of the hall, singing the first strains of “Joy to the World,” I spotted her: an elderly woman in the far corner bed. She looked sad, and alone. My heart melted. I made my way across the room.

“Merry Christmas!” I beamed, stretching out my gift-laden arms. But when I looked down, I noticed one leaf was loose, and the plant lay lopsided in its pot. Oh no! Quickly, I tried pulling it back, but it was too late.

The woman’s dim eyes brightened, her mouth quivered into a smile, and tears trickled down her cheeks. As her frail, trembling hands reached out to take the foil-covered pot, our eyes met. We grinned. And for a few precious moments, we spoke volumes without a word.

I placed the poinsettia where she could see it, and I watched her carefully study it, top to bottom, flaws, and all. She seemed to smile from the inside out. Suddenly the words flawed and lopsided didn’t seem so bad somehow. I had made a sad person happy with my less-than-perfect gift.

Rejoining the group for the final line, I sang out with a thankful heart, and fresh understanding of the words, “…And wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world, indeed!

It was a night I’ll never forget: the imperfect gift, the joyful receiver.

Now, with a sense of awe, I reflect on that first Christmas night over 2000 years ago, when God gave His perfect Gift to us: the Baby in the manger, the Savior of mankind.

In a world where “buy-one-get-one-of-equal-or-lesser-value” reigns supreme, we wrestle with the very idea: How could God incarnate give His perfect life, in exchange for our flawed and sinful ones? That kind of love will always remain a sweet mystery to me, I suppose.

Christmas is the season of giving, but it’s more than that. It’s looking into the face of our Savior, and with a thankful heart, seeing His gift as the ultimate Gift, then reaching out to receive it with joy.

This Christmas, may we all be generous givers—and grateful receivers.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sandi Banks is an author and devotional writer for numerous publishing houses. As a storyteller, she draws upon her years of ministry and travel in 40 countries, living abroad, leading Bible studies, and hosting Summit Ministries’ worldview conferences. Her passion is bringing the hope of Christ to hurting women through writing, speaking, and mentoring. Find her at

Join the conversation: Do you have a Christmas memory of a gift you couldn’t wait to give?


8 thoughts on “The Lopsided Poinsettia

    1. Thank you for your sweet words, Terri. You are a great encourager🥰. Yes, it was a precious memory. Our scout leader, Skipper lived to be 104 years young, and led us through all those years with a heart of love and compassion. Hope you had a Merry Christmas, my friend ❣️ Sandi B.


    2. Thank you for your sweet words, Terri. You are a great encourager🥰. Yes, it was a precious memory. Our scout leader, Skipper lived to be 104 years young, and led us through those years with a heart of love and compassion. Hope you had a Merry Christmas ❣️


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