33: Our Christmas Angel

33: Our Christmas Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Our Christmas Angel

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.

~David Thomas

In December 2000, I landed a contract programming mainframe computers for an investment company in Tacoma, Washington. My wife was seven months pregnant with our fifth child, and my other four children ranged in age from fifteen to seven. Suddenly, I was earning almost $100,000 a year, and we moved into a huge five-bedroom home two days before Christmas.

We had a great Christmas that year, and after our baby was born I was convinced that we had finally made it. I could provide my children with the lifestyle that they deserved. We ate out almost every night and we splurged on lots of silly things.

In August of 2001, I signed a three-year extension to this lucrative contract. I felt very secure in this job — definitely blind to reality. We spent money as if it grew on trees, and I hadn’t even thought about saving for the proverbial rainy day.

Then, on September 11, 2001, when those towers fell in New York City, they brought my world down with them. The investment company that I was working for terminated all its programming contracts. My plans and dreams were gone in the blink of an eye.

As September gave way to October that year, we found ourselves living in a travel trailer at a state park campground. We had three dogs and five kids, the youngest just starting to walk. My income had gone from upper middle class to the poverty level overnight. I was reduced to surviving on a weekly unemployment check while I looked for work.

Needless to say I was feeling very bitter and depressed.

We were still in that trailer, moving from campground to campground throughout the fall. Thanksgiving came and went, and Christmas was approaching. By scrimping wherever we could, my wife and I had managed to set aside about $100 for gifts for the kids. It was sure to be a thin Christmas, but we would still make it as happy as possible for our family.

My youngest son made a friend that November, as only a seven-year-old can, and the two boys spent many days together. This other young fellow was at the campground visiting his grandmother, who had retired from a lifetime of teaching elementary school and was traveling in her RV. She took the boys on many a nature walk and even helped them make homemade Christmas presents for their families, using pinecones, bark, string, construction paper, and used candles.

About a week before Christmas, my son was gloomy. His friend’s grandma was going to be moving on, and they would probably never see each other again. His newfound friend stopped by our campsite on the morning that they left, and his grandmother stopped by as well, for a cup of campfire coffee. We thanked her for the time she spent with the boys, and the help she gave them with their gifts.

As she was leaving, she turned to my wife and said, “Oh, I almost forgot. This is for your family.” She handed my wife an envelope, and then with a smile and a wave, she was gone. My wife opened the envelope. Inside was a card, and as my wife read it, her eyes filled with tears. I asked her what it said, and she just handed it to me, unable to speak.

It was just a simple Christmas card, but when I opened it up, I was rocked to my core.

Inside was a handwritten message that said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. May your family be blessed this Christmas.” Inside were ten crisp twenty-dollar bills.

To this day, I am moved to tears by that wonderful woman’s spirit of love and compassion. I wish I could have thanked her in person. She’ll never know that in one single moment she not only tripled our Christmas budget but also showed us the true meaning of Christmas. Her gift was more than just generous; it touched all of our lives in a huge way.

The following year was a better one, and one of the ways that we attempted to pay it forward was by taking Christmas dinner to a few people who were in that campground for the holiday. Giving away those food bags felt as good as getting any present I ever remember.

Sometimes the special angels in your life appear from nowhere, and they touch you before moving on. I wish that I had known our Christmas angel better, for the day she gave us her gift, I became her student, and I hope that someday I too can change a family’s life like she did ours that day.

~Dusty Grein

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