I can see it being true

Got this email from a friend- (sorry about the formatting, but I don’t have time to fix it right now.  Just read it!)

Christmas Eve 1921

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who

squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities.

But for those who were genuinely  in need, his heart was as big as all

outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from

giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1921. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world

had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the

rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some

reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we

could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the

fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry

for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures.

But Pa didn’t get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I

couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t

worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa

came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard.

“Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight..”I was

really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa

was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see.

We’d already done  all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that

needed doing, especially not on a night like this But I knew Pa was not very

patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so

I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens.

Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house.

Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was

the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going

to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched

up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside

him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled

the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I

followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.

The high sideboards! It had been a?bigger job than I wanted to do with just the

low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger

with the high sideboards on. After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into

the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood—the wood I’d spent all summer

hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting.?

What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?”

“You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about

two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with

three children, the oldest being eight. Sure,I’d been by, but so what? “Yeah,” I said,

“Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the

woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said

and then he turned and went back intothe woodshed for another armload of wood.

I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would

be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smokehouse

and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me

to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over

his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?”

I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around

his feet when he was out in the wood pile this morning. I got the children a little candy too.

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think

through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course,

we did have a big wood pile, though most of what was left now was still in the

form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it.

We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but

I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy??

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than

us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and

unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour

and shoes to the door.  We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said,

“Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we

come in for a bit?” Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a

blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were

sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all.

Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. “We brought you a few things,

Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I  put the meat on the table. Then Pa

handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes

out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children—sturdy

shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to

keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks.

She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said.. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go

bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.”

I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump

in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and

their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much

gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy

that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before,

but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the

lives of these people. I soon had the fire blazing an d everyone’s spirits soared.

The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and

Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for

a long time. She finally  turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has

sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels

to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and thetears welled up in my

eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow

Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a

better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the

times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed

endless as I thought on it. Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left.

I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to

get. Then I guessed  that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord

would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa

took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and

didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had

mine. At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite

you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the

three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many

meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around

again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers

and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said,

“Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, “May the Lord bless you,’ I know for certain

that He will.” Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even

notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to

know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there

all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday

a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your

ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started

into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the

woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I

spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears, again. I understood very well,

and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of

priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s

face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensen’s, or split a block of

wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding

home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he

had given me the best Christmas of my life.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Old NFO
    Dec 16, 2009 @ 15:28:42

    Beautiful, and meaningful… thanks!

  2. Linda
    Dec 16, 2009 @ 16:31:58

    This is what Christmas is all about!

  3. Mariah
    Dec 16, 2009 @ 17:07:50

    This is amazing.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. snigsspot
    Dec 16, 2009 @ 17:33:30

    Well, I figured if I had a lump in my throat, everybody else might as well have one in theirs too. 😉

  5. Skul
    Dec 17, 2009 @ 09:19:09


  6. Wobbly
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 13:28:13

    That’s a very fine story and illustrates a principle everyone would do well to learn.
    What you have there appears to be the text from a book, “A Christmas Prayer” by Rian B. Anderson, written in 2001. ISBN-10 1577349008
    He’s a writer of children’s books, and I’d guess this is one of that genre. This old “child” certainly enjoyed it!

  7. retiredpo1
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 20:51:44

    Should be required reading in the congress on Wednesday before the break.

%d bloggers like this: