67: Santa in the ’Hood

67: Santa in the ’Hood

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Santa in the ’Hood

Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.

~Dale Evans

I was pregnant and my husband had just started a new job driving a transport truck. We weren’t sure our finances were going to get us through the holidays. Things were tight and we already needed to make a nice Christmas for our first child and my husband’s daughter. I felt as though I was failing as a parent in some way. We didn’t have enough money for food and our marriage was going through a bumpy patch at the time. Being pregnant and alone a lot only served to deepen my depression, and I even mentioned to a friend how low I was feeling.

One day, I was babysitting for another friend. I was doing everything possible to earn a little extra money. I was in the bathroom when I heard a knock on the door; the kids must need me, I thought. I called to them to let them know I would be right out. I was shocked to hear a male voice answer me saying, “Hurry up! Get dressed. We are going for a car ride.”

When I came out of the bathroom, I was surprised to see my friend Wayne standing in my living room smiling broadly at me. “I can’t just go for a ride, I am babysitting and we don’t have any car seats or anything,” I replied. The truth was I wasn’t feeling up to company and didn’t feel like going anywhere.

Wayne was a persuasive man and always seemed to have answers to such problems. “Oh, that’s no problem... I can just use my grand-daughter’s seat.” He smiled at me, almost bouncing out of the house. “I’ll be right back. Be ready, okay?”

Realizing that my friend was not going to take no for an answer, I quickly brushed my hair, grabbed my coat, and got the kids dressed for the weather, just in the nick of time. In mere minutes, Wayne was knocking on the door. As I walked to the car I realized that it was my neighbour Stu’s car, and he was there, smiling in the front seat.

“Where are we going?” I asked my friends.

Wayne quickly replied, “Oh, Stu needs to go into town to pick up a few things, and we just thought it might be good for you to get out of the house.”

When we got into town, Wayne pulled into the grocery store parking lot, parked, and proceeded to get the kids out of the car.

I told them I would just wait in the car, but they wouldn’t hear of it. I got out of the car, took the kids by the hand, and followed them into the store.

As we walked through the doors of the store, Stu and Wayne each grabbed a shopping cart and turned to me. I stood there waiting for them to start their shopping. “I’m ready,” I said, trying not to hold up their shopping. They looked at each other mischievously, then back at me. “What?” I asked.

Stu smiled. “Okay, since you’re ready, let’s do your shopping.” I was dumbfounded. I just stood there staring, as tears began to run from my eyes.

“Wh-wh-what?” I stammered.

“Let’s do your grocery shopping, and no looking at price tags. Just buy what you want. I’m paying,” Stu replied with a boyish grin.

“You can’t do this,” I said quietly.

“I can and I am,” he replied, still smiling.

In a quiet whisper, smiling through tears, I told Stu, “I’ll get you back for this.” Slowly, I started to follow them.

As the two men ushered me through the store buying all manner of food, drink, candy, chocolate, and anything they deemed we needed, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why were they doing this?

At the checkout counter, it suddenly dawned on me what was actually happening. I started to cry again, and the cashier asked timidly, “Are you alright?”

Yes,” I replied. “These two have just done my Christmas shopping for me.”

“I’m paying,” Stu stated proudly. The cashier smiled and said, “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Santa!”

Once we were packed in the car (believe me, there wasn’t much room) and on our way back home, I asked Stu why he did what he did. He told me that since he didn’t have children of his own, and his wife had passed, this was his way of celebrating Christmas.

It took me three days to find room to put all the food away.

In January of the following year, Stu was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I had to let him know how much everyone in the community loved and appreciated him. Stu was a bit of a philanthropist in our small town. What could I do? How could we show him? We had to do something before it was too late.

Eventually, I came up with the idea that we could make him a quilt and have each of our families’ names embroidered on a square so that he could be “blanketed in the warmth, love, and kindness” of us all. We called Wayne, who then got in touch with many of the people around town who knew, loved, and respected Stu. He planned a bit of a party and had the quilt embroidered. I told Wayne that I didn’t want anyone to know it was my idea. We just all needed to let Stu know we loved him.

A year later, it was a snowy December evening near Christmas. My mom and I got the kids ready and walked to the community center to join in the festivities. When we arrived, we noticed Stu sitting at the front of the hall.

Then, Wayne took the microphone. “Tonight would not be happening without the thought and care of one person....”

Oh no, I thought. Here it comes. I stood there staring at Wayne, shaking my head slowly at first and then more violently. “Connie, can you please come up here?” I’m going to die I thought, everyone is looking at me.

“Go on, Con,” my mom whispered.

When I got to where Stu was sitting, tears were streaming down his face. I leaned down and hugged him. “I told you I would get you back,” I whispered to him.

“That you have, darling, that you have. Merry Christmas!”

A month later Stu passed away from the cancer. Twelve Christmases have passed since he died and every year I think about him and say a silent prayer of thanks to him for being Santa to me all those years ago.

~Connie I. Davidson

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