“Do you have any costumes that we might be able to use for the shepherds?” Isabelle, the head Sunday school teacher, asked me. We had just finished rehearsal on Tuesday evening, five days before my first Christmas as an adult in Africa. We had only arrived about a month before and I was in the middle of making curtains for our house. I’m terrible at sewing and it was already pretty clear that our house was going to look like it was decorated by a five year old. But I desperately wanted to be useful to the children’s program of our new little church, so of course I replied, “I think I can come up with something.”
Thankfully, I’m not very good at math because I had calculated wrong and bought a ridiculous amount of fabric for my curtains. Surely I could figure out a way to tie a crooked curtain onto a little kid to make him look something like a shepherd.
“That’s great,” Isabelle said. “And for the angels, wise men, Mary, Joseph and the sheep?”
That’s right. Five days before the play was supposed to be presented at church and there were no costumes. And I had just volunteered to completely outfit the group. I suddenly felt like the little drummer boy, with no gifts to bring; only, he could drum and I definitely couldn’t sew. A straight stitch is about the sum total of my sewing talents.
For the next four days I frantically sewed, taped, stapled and glued 20 costumes from our curtain material. I attached cotton balls to hair bands for sheep and duct taped tinsel to coat hangers for angel wings. I chopped up my curtains with holes for shepherd’s coats and ripped strips of fabric for belts to hold the cloaks on.
In the end, my windows were bare and every member of the cast was wearing some form of our drapery. Maybe I really didn’t have much of a gift to offer—bad math and a glue stick—but I gave them what I had, and on Christmas day, the cast looked “perfect.”