Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Story

I am sharing this story that a friend on one of my online quilt groups posted

Christmas Eve 1881

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


It was Christmas Eve 1881. 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 m ood 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 unl ess 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 bi gger with the high side boards 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 into the woodshed for an other 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 smoke

house 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 gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in

the woodpile 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

co urse, we did have a big woodpile, 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, 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 and 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 lon g

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 the tears 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 gunny sacks 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

Jensens, 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.

Don't be too busy today. Share this inspiring

message. God bless you!



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