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A Potpourri of Christmas Stories and Poems

Joe’s Story
(Author Unknown)

He was driving home one evening, on a two-lane country road. Work, in this small mid-western community, was almost as slow as his beat-up Pontiac. But he never quit looking. Ever since the Levis factory closed, he'd been unemployed, and with winter raging on, the chill had finally hit home.

It was a lonely road. Not very many people had a reason to be on it, unless they were leaving. Most of his friends had already left. They had families to feed and dreams to fulfill. But he stayed on. After all, this was where he buried his mother and father. He was born here and knew the country.

He could go down this road blind, and tell you what was on either
side, and with his headlights not working, that came in handy. It was starting to get dark and light snow flurries were coming down. He'd better get a move on.

You know, he almost didn't see the old lady, stranded on the side of the road. But even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out.  His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look safe, he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt.  It was that chill that only fear can put in you. He said, "I'm here to help you ma'am.  Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm.  By the way, my name is Joe."

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad
enough.  Joe crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two.  soon he was able to change the tire.  But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.  As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down her window and began to talk to him.  She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through.  She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid.  Joe just smiled as he closed her trunk.

She asked him how much she owed him.  Any amount would have been alright with her.  She had already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Joe never thought twice about the money.  This was not a job to him.  This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past.  He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.  He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance that they needed, and Joe added, "...and think of me".

He waited until she started her car and drove off.  It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home,
disappearing into the twilight.  A few miles down the road the lady
saw a small cafe.  She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the
chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home.  It was a
dingy looking restaurant.  Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The cash register was like the telephone of an out of work actor, it didn't ring much.

Her waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair.  She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase.  The lady noticed that the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude.  The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger.  Then she remembered Joe.

After the lady finished her meal, and the waitress went to get her
change from a hundred dollar bill, the lady slipped right out the
door.  She was gone by the time the waitress came back.  She wondered where the lady could be, then she noticed something written on a napkin.  There were tears in her eyes, when she read what the lady wrote.  It said, "You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.  Someone once helped me out, the way I'm helping you.  If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do.  Don't let the chain of love end with you."

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to
serve, but the waitress made it through another day.  That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written.  How could she have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard.  She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, "Everything's gonna be alright, I love you Joe."

The Golden slippers
(Author Unknown)

It was only four days before Christmas.  The spirit of the season hadn’t yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store.   Inside the store, it was worse.  Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles.   Why did I come today, I wondered.  My feet ached almost as much as my head.  My list contained names of several  people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn’t buy them anything.  Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. 

Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines.  I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.  In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat.  Enormously large,  tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands.  The girl’s clothing resembled her brother’s.  Her head was a matted mass of curly hair.  Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face.  She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers.  As the Christmas music sounded in the store’s stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily.

When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter.  She treated them as though they were a treasure.  The clerk rang up the bill.   “That will be $6.09,” she said.

The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12. “I Guess we will have to put them back,” he bravely said. “We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow.”

With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl.   “But Jesus would have loved these shoes,” she cried.  

“Well, we’ll go home and work some more. Don’t cry. We’ll come back,” he said.

Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time.  And, after all, it was Christmas.  Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, “Thank you lady.”

“What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?” I asked.

The boy answered, “Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus.”  

The girl spoke, “My Sunday school teacher said the streets in Heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won’t mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?”

My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face.   “Yes” I answered," I am sure she will.”  Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.

A Christmas Story
(Author Unknown)

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree.  No name, no identification, no inscription.  It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.  It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas---oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it.  Overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.  Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth.  I reached for something special just for Mike.

The inspiration came in an unusual way.  Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black.  These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, resented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.  As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.  It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.  Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."  Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.

That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.  On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition---one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.  But the story doesn't end there.  You see, we lost Mike, last year, due to dreaded cancer.  When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up.  But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.  Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.  

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

What Shall We Give the Children?
(Author Unknown)

What shall we give the children?
Christmas is almost here.
Toys and games and playthings,
as we do every year?
Yes, for the magic of Toyland
is part of the yuletide lore
to gladden the heart of childhood,
but I shall give something more;
a more sympathetic ear,
a little more time for laughter,
or tenderly dry a tear...
I shall take time to teach them
the joy of doing some task.
I'll try to find some time to answer
more of the questions they ask.
And take long walks in the sun.
Time for a bedtime story,
after the day is done.
I shall give these to my children,
weaving a closer tie,
knitting our lives together
with gifts that money can't buy.

There's More to Christmas...
(Author Unknown)

There's more, much more to Christmas
Than candle-light and cheer;
It's the spirit of sweet friendship
That brightens all the year;
It's thoughtfulness and kindness,
It's hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding
And for goodwill to men!

Going Home for Christmas
by Edgar Guest

He little knew the sorrow that was in his vacant chair;
He never guessed they'd miss him, or he'd surely have been there;
He couldn't see his mother or the lump that filled her throat,
Or the tears that started falling as she read his hasty note;
And he couldn't see his father, sitting sorrowful and dumb,
Or he never would have written that he thought he couldn't come.

He little knew the gladness that his presence would have made,
And the joy it would have given, or he never would have stayed.
He didn't know how hungry had the little mother grown
Once again to see her baby and to claim him for her own.
He didn't guess the meaning of his visit Christmas Day
Or he never would have written that he couldn't get away.

He couldn't see the fading of the cheeks that once were pink,
And the silver in the tresses; and he didn't stop to think
How the years are passing swiftly, and next Christmas it might be
There would be no home to visit and no mother dear to see.
He didn't think about it - I'll not say he didn't care.
He was heedless and forgetful or he'd surely have been there.

Are you going home for Christmas? Have you written you'll be there?
Going home to kiss the mother and to show her that you care?
Going home to greet the father in a way to make him glad?
If you're not, I hope there'll never come a time you'll wish you had.
Just sit down and write a letter - it will make their heart strings hum,
With a tune of perfect gladness - if you'll tell them that you'll come.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

(Originally published in The New York Sun in 1897):

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor---

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 

 

 

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