TAMARA NATASHA SPENC
With almost 9,000 copies sold to date, Charles Callaway’s Christmas story, “Benjamin’s Gift,” is sure to be a holiday favorite among those in search of a seasonal, feel-good tale.
For an untold number of authors, inspiration comes while performing some of the most mundane tasks life has to offer. According to Callaway such was the case for the idea of his book “Benjamin’s Gift.”
“While driving down 4500 South in Salt Lake City during a rainstorm 17 years ago, the idea for “Benjamin’s Gift” came to me. By the time I arrived home I told the story to my wife; she insisted that I publish it,” Callaway said.
Armed with the money they raised by selling their car, the Callaway’s were able to publish the book themselves in 1979. They sold all 5,000 copies that were printed.
A quietly-moving tale, “Benjamin’s Gift” recounts the story of a young boy named Benjamin who lived in the time of Christ’s birth. Benjamin, born without legs, is left in the care of his older brother Lancus after the death of both their parents. Gripped with pridefulness and the desire to please man rather than God, Lancus quickly forgets the Judeo teachings of his parents when he is appointed command leader of Herod’s army.
“Benjamin’s Gift” illuminates the struggle many Christians are faced with in a highly competitive, egocentric society. Lancus’ fall from grace, so to speak, as he succumbs to the demands of the world is discussed in the first half of the book.
“Obeying the teachings of the prophets gave no promise of power and recognition he so much desired. Obedience to Herod had already rewarded him with the attention he had never before been given,” noted the second chapter of the book.
Unlike his older brother, Benjamin had not forgotten the teachings of his parents; their admonition that he love all men and seek to help all men in as much as he was able to was firmly ingrained in him. Blessed with the gift of craftsmanship, Benjamin spent his days selling small wooden animals he had carved on the streets of Jerusalem.
Benjamin soon comes to represent the selfless, Christ-like individual we all hear about in sacrament talks and silently aspire to emulate. After suffering much affliction because of the hardness of his brother’s heart and the indifferent, uncaring attitude of the children in his town, Benjamin’s undaunting Christ-like love becomes apparent in the third chapter of the book.
In this chapter Benjamin wistfully thinks about acquiring wooden legs so that he can help others more. “Benjamin’s Gift” quickly develops into a tear-jerker tale when we learn that after receiving his much anticipated wooden legs from a neighborhood friend, Benjamin end up giving them away.
Upon hearing of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, Benjamin is troubled by his lack of funds to buy the new king a gift. So he makes a cradle for baby Jesus from his new wooden legs that have brought him so much joy. “Benjamin’s Gift” is a beautifully-poignant tale of charity and the joy we can all get from giving of ourselves.
It is no wonder that a few years ago a woman phoned the Callaway residence from England begging for all the copies Callaway could send.
“So I scrounged a handful of mouse-chewed books that had been in my garage and mailed them,” Callaway said.
“I then started hearing from people in other countries scattered across the globe, so I decided to give the book another chance,” he said. Copies of “Benjamin’s Gift” are available at Barnes & Noble.