Discussion in 'VMBB General Discussion' started by rooter, Dec 19, 2008.

  1. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff* Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2001
    Glendale Arizona
    A Christmas Story

    by Rian B. Anderson

    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 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

    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 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.
    When 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
    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
    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, 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
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