12/14/08

Christmas 13: Santa's Gift Card

Christmas was not on my mind when I decided I needed to go back to college to get a better job. I applied for financial help and received a grant to college in another state. Jennifer and I prayed about our decision and knew it was the right one.

The move was hard. It was hard to leave family and friends. But the move was harder on us financially. We moved during the summer to get settled before I started school. I also had to start over with a new job. We watched our small savings dwindle. Jennifer and I looked over our finances when school started and I needed to buy textbooks. We decided we would need to drop our cell phone, internet and cable service. We would barely have enough money for food and diapers. We knew we were in the right place doing the right thing, it was just going to be tight.

A few weeks before Christmas my company downsized and I lost my job. I went home to tell my wife. She was putting in a pizza when the phone rang. I watched Jennifer paint Jordan's hand red and press it to a paper wreath while I listened to her end the conversation. [She was painting a toddler's hand while putting pizza in the oven and talking on the phone?]

"Yes, I had heard the Wallace's baby was still in NICU." She painted Jordan's other hand green and pressed it to the paper. "We'll be happy to bring in a dinner." She hung up and looked at me. I nodded. Jennifer packed up our pizza, garlic bread and salad and left. We ate Jordan's favorite dinner when she got back: PB&J. [not everyone will know what this is.] Over dinner, Jennifer told of the Wallace's bare apartment.

I looked at our own little tree. We bought it when we were first married. It had one present under it. At Enrichment, Jennifer had made an etching on glass of the temple we were sealed in. I looked at Jordan. I knew he wouldn't know if he got anything for Christmas. But at two-years-old he made the best car sounds a father could hope for.

I looked around our little one room apartment. Jennifer and Jordan had colored Christmas and Nativity scenes and hung them around the living room. Paper snowflakes adorned the windows. I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. It looked like we had a choice of PB&J or tomato soup for Christmas dinner. If the food lasted that long.

That night, I decided it was time to swallow my pride and talk to our bishop. Jennifer had loving suggested I make an appointment with him but I said no, we are fine. I called the bishop's secretary. He told me the bishop could see me tonight.

"Welcome, Brother Whitlock!" Bishop Draper shook my hand and motioned for me to sit in the chair across from him at his desk. "What can I do for you? Or sometimes I like to ask, what can the Lord do for you?"

"Well, Bishop, I came today because there is too much month at the end of my money. Our cupboards are bare and I have no job." I tried to smile.

Bishop Draper sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers under his chin and looked at me. He asked about Jordan and our medical bills. He asked me about school, my skills and previous jobs. His next question surprised me.

"Have you been paying your tithing?" he asked, quietly.

"Yes!" I replied, emphatically. It was always the first check written after I got paid.

He nodded and smiled.

"Then all will be well, Brother Whitlock. All will be well." He stood and walked around the desk to me. "Do you have enough faith?"

I hesitated while I thought about his question. I slowly nodded.

Bishop Draper extended his hand to me and I stood up to shake it.

He put a hand on my shoulder. "The Lord knows your needs. He loves you."

As I drove home, I wondered what I would tell my wife over another PB&J dinner. There was a knock on the door. One of the local youth held out a manila envelope, requesting a small donation to help a local family who lost their husband and baby to a house fire. The rest of the family were living with grandparents until they could get on their own feet again. I put all the money in the envelope I had on me: $1. Now I had no money for a toy car, but I knew I had given the widows mite.

The next day, I grabbed the mail. I had sent my resume to several organizations and was waiting for a phone call or a letter. All I found was the usual credit card applications and last minute Christmas shopping ads. I threw the mail on the table. A red envelope caught my eye. I picked it up and looked at the return address. "Santa Claus, North Pole." I looked at the postmark. "North Pole."

"Jennifer! We got a letter from Santa!" I opened the letter with Jennifer looking over my shoulder. The letter told us that Santa has helpers around the world who gave to those in need. One such helper wanted to help us. Jennifer and I looked at the gift card in her hand with big eyes. Arms around each other and tears flowing down our cheeks, we knelt in humble prayer to thank our Heavenly Father for his tender mercies.

We bundled Jordan up and went Christmas shopping. We bought Jordan a ball and a toy car. I bought Jennifer perfume and she bought me a robe. She said she was tired of seeing my holey pajamas. We also bought food for our cupboards and Christmas dinner.

When we checked out we were surprised to see the amount of money left on the card. Our Santa Helper had given us enough money to cover our purchases and more. Jennifer and I looked at each other and smiled. We took our purchases to the car and went back inside.

We went to the card aisle and found a big card with Santa on it. We went home and found the address of a family who needed a Santa Helper. We put the gift card inside the card and mailed it the next day. Now we were one of Santa's Helpers.

The feeling of this Christmas are indescribable on all levels. The joy of giving and receiving this season will not be forgotten.

What I liked best: Good story. Gives you that warm fuzzy Christmas feeling. Needs a tad more zing to it. Not sure what to suggest. It's good. It's nice. It's not spectacular. Maybe it needs a little more personality. ??

Magazine ready? Yes, but might get bumped for something more original.

7 comments:

Jennie said...

Needs a little work, but there's a sincerety I like to this one. It gets my unpublished vote.

Shauna said...

Oh, I like the feeling behind this one. Thanks for sharing.

Gay said...

This one gets my vote.

~Hot Cocoa~ said...

I vote for this one

Joker said...

I vote this one

Taffy said...

I vote this one

cba said...

This story gets one of my votes.
Nice.