A Potpourri of Christmas Stories and Poems
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
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
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,
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
Well, there were tables to clear, sugar
bowls to fill, and people to
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.”
did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?” I asked.
boy answered, “Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she
might go before Christmas to be with Jesus.”
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.
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
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.
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.
Shall We Give the Children?
shall we give the children?
There's More to Christmas...
Going Home for Christmas
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
(Originally published in The New York Sun in
otherwise noted, all poetry on this website is the copyrighted work of Virginia
Carlson at "picsandpoems.com." Please see my Terms