A Christmas Story: The true Christmas spirit


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 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 so bad that year 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. So 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 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 the big 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
 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.
 When we had exchanged the sideboards Pa went into the woodshed and came
out with an arm load 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 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 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
course, 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
 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, then he turned to me and
said, "Matt, go bring enough in to last for 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, 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
and so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled
within me and a joy filled my soul that I'd never known before. 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 long time.  She
finally turned to us.  "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord himself 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 older brothers and two older sisters
were 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. So,
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. Just then 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.


~Please share this page with a Friend~

God gives us the gift of faith to share. May we give it to others in the loving spirit in which it was given to us. Sharing is caring.

 Your  Help Can Make A Difference Click Here

  Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Get Really Cool FREE Stuff Just click Here

 "Amber Alert"

 Home | Inspirational Poems | Story Room | Prayer Request | Christian E-Cards  |Reporting Problems | SweepstakesSpecial RequestE-Mail Mr. Mom | About Mr. Mom | Disclaimer | Something For Everyone | Subscribe | Let's Help the Children | Missing Children |