A dear friend shared this
precious Christmas Story with me, and it touched me so much, I, in turn,
wanted to share it with you...
Better bundle up - the goose bumps will freeze you!! I think I need to
read this every year at Christmas! It IS a 'tear jerker'...so get the
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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 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 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.
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May God Bless You!