98: Love in a Christmas Card

98: Love in a Christmas Card

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Love in a Christmas Card

The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Times were tough for our family of five. I was a stay-at-home mom with three young children. My husband was working two jobs, but in spite of all his efforts we often had trouble making the money he earned stretch from one paycheck to the next.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas we had been extra careful, determined to have at least one store-bought gift to put under the tree for each child on Christmas morning. Careful planning and a little ingenuity (allowing our children to think they were eating steak when it was actually… liver, for example!) had provided the money needed to purchase a toy or book for each child to go along with the gifts we had made for them.

Now, it was the Friday before Christmas. And despite all the corners we’d cut, when we finished our shopping we realized there was nothing left to put gas in our vehicle for the trip to my parents’ home. Tears flowed as I realized there was no way we’d be able to see them on Christmas. I dreaded the thought of calling and telling them, but I knew it had to be done. I also knew I couldn’t call until after 6:00 p.m. Daytime long distance calls were a luxury we could not even consider.

The day dragged on as I waited to make my call. Each minute seemed like an hour and each hour like an entire day. I was working in the kitchen when I heard a noise outside. Glancing out the window I saw the mail carrier walking away from our house. When I checked the mailbox I found a stack of envelopes waiting — the last rush of Christmas cards before the break for the holidays.

I took my time opening the cards, enjoying reading greetings from friends and relatives across the country. It was a welcome way to divert my mind from the sorrow I felt at the thought of making the call to cancel our trip. I knew it would bring disappointment to both our parents, and to our children.

When I came to the last envelope I stared at the handwriting, unable to identify it. I turned it over, but there was no return address. The postmark was blurred, making it impossible to tell where it had been mailed. As I opened the envelope, a twenty-dollar bill fluttered to the floor. I reached for the card, anxious to know who had sent this timely gift. At the bottom of the card, below the printed greeting, was just one word, printed in block letters — LOVE. There was no signature.

Twenty dollars was not a lot of money, and it may not have been enough to fill our gas tank. But it was enough to get us to my parents’ home and back. My day instantly took on a totally different feeling as my heart lifted knowing I no longer had to make that call.

On Christmas Day we had a joyful time watching the kids open their gifts, playing games together and feasting on the meal Mom had prepared. What we didn’t know, and couldn’t have known was that it would be my father’s last Christmas with us. He passed away the following summer, making the memories of that Christmas gathering — that almost didn’t happen — especially meaningful.

After Christmas we made some discreet inquiries, hoping to thank whoever had sent us the money, but we never did discover who it was. Although we were unable to personally thank the person who sent it, I still think of him or her every Christmas and today, more than thirty years later, I’m still so very grateful for that gift!

~Gloria V. Phillips

Collingwood, Ontario

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