Tag Archives: Christmas story

2 Important Truths About This Season

solstice

Every year I celebrate Winter #Solstice quietly; contemplating what this time of year means to me. One of the things I have learned from Winter Solstice is that sunrise will always come, if we hang on. If we keep putting one foot in front of the other; if we refuse to give up, we will see that glorious sunrise. I learned from my biological mother and my grandmother to “never quit”.
One friend of mine years ago commented that I was much like a bulldozer–I would go around, over, under, or through any obstacle in my path. Sometimes, tenacity is the only thing between failure and success.

The second important truth I have learned about this season is—

gifts

Growing up in the midst of poverty, I watched my grandmother literally share her last piece of bread with another. My mother regularly went down to the train yard and gathered up produce from broken crates. She brought it back to our neighborhood and shared it with everyone.
On the other hand, I have lived among those who had more than they needed; those who hoarded material things until they had to create more storage, yet they were unwilling to part with a single item to someone who had nothing. Others who had plenty sometimes grudgingly parted with a pittance to those in need.

giving-freely

Here is a story of a person who gave freely when she had so very little to give.

old dog

THE GIFT

By Aya Walksfar

Sixty-eight-year old Marybelle Brown pushed the rattling grocery cart filled with plastic bags of aluminum cans through the square next to the #Seattle Aquarium. That summer vendors had hawked sparkling necklaces and handmade toys and flamboyant scarves. Now it lay beneath the full moon, deserted except for a few pigeons huddled on a low wall near the water. Moving slowly so she wouldn’t disturb their rest, she made her way over and leaned against the cold concrete. She’d always loved Puget Sound. The gentle lap of the waves soothed her.

After a few minutes, she turned her cart and headed across the empty space. In the center stood a twelve-foot tall #Christmas tree. Red and green lights twinkled amid the plastic ornaments and glittering tinsel. Marybelle gazed up at it, at the star blazing white on the top. At last, she sighed in contentment and moved on.

fuzzy xmas tree

Today had been a wonderful Christmas Eve. She’d found three partially eaten cheeseburgers in one of McDonald’s trashcans. They were stashed in the ragged canvas shoulder bag along with French fries from a dumpster and two, whole pieces of cod from Ivar’s trash. A smile sat lightly on her cracked and chapped lips. Tonight she would feast! She patted the side of the shoulder bag and felt the bottle of Starbucks mocha and the bottle of Arrowhead water that a kind man had given to her with a smile and a Merry Christmas. Yes, tonight she would feast.

She bent her head back and gazed upward. Stars flung across the black heavens. Some people likened the stars to diamonds on black velvet, but she knew better. The stars were all the souls who had gone ahead, smiling down on those they’d left behind. Someday when it was time for her to leave this bent and painful body, she’d fly up there and be with them. Her momma and granny would be waiting. She wondered if the critters she had nursed would be there. Of course, they would! Her granny had told her that the souls of animals always went to the Bright Place because they lived as God intended.

She shuffled along. Time to get to her spot under the viaduct. Thick blackberry bushes hid the hole she’d dug out up against where the concrete met the earth. It had taken her a long time to make a roomy depression in that hard ground with a broken shovel. Hidden at the far back of the hole were all of her most precious belongings, safe from discovery by others, safe from the rain.

She crossed the quiet street and the cart jarred over the trolley tracks. Where cars parked during the day was mostly deserted now and filled with deeper shadows. The fat round concrete pillars that held up the overhead roadway too often hid bad things. She veered away, cornering her eye so she could keep watch while she passed.

As Marybelle came abreast of one spot of darkness a darker shadow moved within it. Her heart leaped into her throat. Her chest constricted with panic and squeezed the breath from her lungs. There! Who’s there? Her feet froze as her mind shouted, “Run!”

Just as her feet started to move, a whimper floated out of that darkness. The loneliness in that small sound dragged at her heart. “Leave, Marybelle. You can’t help whoever it is.”

In spite of herself, her hands left the cart and her feet shuffled toward the darkness. Her heart galloped like a crazed horse. “ Oh, Lord, I feel like my heart’s gonna bust.”

As she drew closer, a stray beam of moonlight shone against the pillar. Crumpled at the base of that cylinder of concrete lay a black dog. It lifted forlorn eyes to her face. The very tip of its tail tapped the ground twice then stopped like that was all the energy the poor thing had.

In her mind the years fell away and she once again saw her momma open the door of their tiny apartment. “Oh, Marybelle, you can’t help every critter you see,” her momma’s gentle hands tending to Marybelle’s latest rescue belied her words. Momma and granny had always tried to save the animals she dragged home–starved and beaten and broken.

She edged closer and the dog cringed, trying to melt into the ground. She knew the feeling. Carefully, she lowered herself to her achy knees. Never looking directly at the dog, she held out a hand. “It’s alright. I know just how you feel.” The dog’s body relaxed and it stretched its black nose toward her hand. “That’s it, little one. Come on over to Marybelle.”

She slid her shoulder bag to the ground then dug around until her hand touched the wrapping of one of the half-eaten burgers. Eyes still averted, she held a small bite on the palm of her outstretched hand. The dog sniffed the air and gave an anxious whine. “I know. It’s scary, but honestly, this is for you.”

The cold seeped through the three pairs of thin pants and chilled her arthritic knees. Still, she knelt there, hand out in offering. The dog stretched its neck toward the food. It crept one step, two steps. Now Marybelle could see the ribs jutting out under the patchy hide.

“Poor thing,” she crooned.

The dog trembled as it came close enough to snatch the food. It took the rest of the burger for the poor thing to creep close enough for Marybelle to put her arms around it. The dog was big, bigger than her German Shepherd had been. She felt the resistance of its stiff body, but kept humming and stroking one hand down its thin side. At last, the tension drained from it and it nestled against her chest.

After a while, she gave its sharp nose a kiss. “Gotta git up, little girl. My knees don’t like this kneeling.” She pulled a ragged wool scarf from around her neck and made the dog a soft collar and leash.

At her hideaway, Marybelle laid out the sleeping bag that a young, white girl had given her that past fall. She never carried this precious gift for fear of it being taken from her. But every night since early fall she’d blessed that child, and wished her well as she fell asleep. The dog immediately curled up on one side, the shivers wracking its body subsiding.

She sat next to the dog and lit the stub of a candle she’d found and saved for a special occasion. This surely was a most special occasion. “We’re safe here, Dog. With all the blackberry bushes around us and being way up under here, no one wants to crawl this far back.” She draped the two blankets she had scrounged from a Goodwill donation box around her shoulders and over Dog’s back.

From her handbag, she took the food and set it on the sleeping bag in front of them. She filled her dented quart pot with the bottled water and set it in front of Dog. She raised her head and drank deeply as Marybelle opened the bottle of Starbucks Mocha Coffee drink. She tapped the bottle against the pot rim. “Here’s to our friendship, Dog.”

Carefully, she divided the hamburgers, the fries, the fish: half for her, half for dog. Dog quickly ate her half, but sat politely, not begging for Marybelle’s food. She took all but one piece of the fish and laid it in front of the gray muzzle. “Merry Christmas, Dog.”

Dog cocked her head and fixed her clouded eyes on the old woman. “Go on, Dog. An old woman like me don’t need so much food. Probably would make me sick to eat all of that. This piece of fish’ll do me just fine.”

Feast over she stuffed the trash in the paper bag and set it to one side. She lay down and Dog cuddled against her chest. With the blankets spread over the two of them and the sleeping bag zipped she draped a sleep heavy arm over the old dog’s side. “This has been a lovely Christmas Eve, Dog. Thank you.”

Singing woke Marybelle. Beautiful singing that called to her. She opened her eyes and got to her feet. Dog leaned her head against Marybelle’s leg. A bridge lay before them. Dog looked up with cataract whitened eyes and whined. She took a step toward the bridge and twisted her gray muzzle over her shoulder as if to say, “Come on.”

The bridge shone like a golden light lit it from within. Marybelle shivered. Fear rose up and wrapped chains around her legs. Dog padded back to her side. She pushed her cold black nose against the palm of Marybelle’s hand and gazed up at her. “Oh, Dog, I know you wanna go that way, but I…I can’t.”

Dog sat next to Marybelle’s leg and sighed. She rubbed the old dog’s grizzled fur and knelt in front of her. Staring into the dog’s dimmed eyes, she cradled the gray muzzle between her knarled and arthritis twisted hands. “I know you want to go that way. And…and it’s probably a good place, Dog. But, I…” she inhaled a deep breath and let it ease from her. “I know it’s a good place, Dog. I can feel it; like I know you can, too. But, I don’t deserve to go there.”

Dog flicked out a warm wet tongue and licked the tears that traced the lines of Marybelle’s weathered face. She pressed her face against Dog’s then kissed her muzzle and stood up. She took a half step away from Dog.

Courage gathered like a tattered garment, she looked into Dog’s eyes. “I can’t go there, Dog. I haven’t been a good person. There’s things…” she glanced away and swallowed the lump in her throat. When she looked back, she blinked away the tears. “There’s things I’ve done; things I’ve said that were wrong. I’ve…I’ve hurt people. Over there,” she raised a thin arm and waved toward the shining bridge. “Over there is for good people, people like you, Dog. Go on. You deserve to be there.” She turned and moved away from the dog.

She’d only gone a few steps before she felt the cold nose against her dangling hand. She squatted next to the dog. “Oh, Dog.” She buried her face in the brittle black fur. When she lifted her face, she hugged the dog and stood. “Looks like you aren’t going to go, if I don’t.” Heart pounding, she gave a slight nod as if confirming her own decision. “I’ll go with you, Dog, because you deserve to be over there.”

Dog pressed tight against her leg as they walked onto the glowing bridge. The golden light enveloped them, warmed them.

Halfway across the bridge Marybelle stopped and gazed over the railing. Below, a broad, placid river flowed. As they drew nearer to the far side, a beautiful meadow ablaze with blue and yellow and orange flowers rolled out as far as she could see. Her eyes rounded.

When they reached the end of the bridge, a melodic voice spoke. “I see you’ve helped her to Cross, Dog. I knew you could. Well done.”

Marybelle raised her eyes and gazed into the milk chocolate face and dark chocolate eyes. “Momma?”

The woman spread her arms and Marybelle ran into them.

The End

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PHOTO CREDITS: Old dog–Anne Lowe    Christmas tree–Anna Langova  (all-free-download.com)

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THE LITTLE #ANGEL WHO COULDN’T SING

The Little #Angel Who Couldn’t Sing

A History of this story: Many years ago a little boy died only hours after he was born. Benji was Betty’s only child. Betty was an elder who lived with my wife and I until her death from emphysema a few years ago. Like me, Betty was a #writer. Her voice is unique. A couple of weeks before she died, she Gifted all of her work to me. Though #Christianity was Betty’s religion, not mine, we always respected each others’ beliefs.  And I have the greatest respect for Betty’s work.  I hope you enjoy, and share, this beautiful story that Betty wrote. I know she would be pleased.

Written by Betty Matney/edited by Aya Walksfar

Little Angel huddled, shivering and sobbing, in the shadow of a large bank of dirty clouds outside of Heaven’s Gate.  Gusts of cold north wind tugged at his mud-spattered robe and tangled the feathers of his wings, forcing him to burrow deeper into his hiding place.  He knew he should get up and go home, but he couldn’t face his friends.   If it didn’t get any colder, he’d sneak home after dark.

Suddenly, he stopped crying and raised his head to listen.  Voices drifted across the clouds.  He curled into a tighter ball and lay very still.  He didn’t want any of the angels to find him.

A deep voice spoke briskly.  “I tell you I heard someone crying.”

There was a mumbled response Little Angel couldn’t hear very well.

Even closer this time, the deep voice said,  “I know how happy everyone is, but I also know crying when I hear it.”

Whoever it was they were nearly at his bank of clouds.  He covered his head with his wings and held his breath.

Big feet shuffled to a stop and the deep voice said,  “What do we have here?”

He slowly raised his head and peeked over the edge of his wing.  His blue eyes popped wide.  God Himself stood looking down at him.

Holding his long, gray, wind-tossed hair out of His eyes with one hand, He bent over and held His other hand out to the little angel.  “Come out of there, little one.”

He lowered his wing and God pulled him out of his hole.  He stood there, robe wrinkled and dirty, gold halo tilted over his right ear, eyes cast down.  God knelt on one knee.  With a finger under Little Angel’s chin, He lifted his face.  “How old are you, little one?”

He mumbled,  “Seven years old, Sir.”

“So, on the day when joy is almost tearing this old place apart, why are you down here, alone and crying?”  Gently, He wiped the tears away with the end of the green sash wrapped around His waist.

Little Angel bit his trembling lower lip to keep from crying again.

God twisted His head around and looked up at the other adult angel.  “Aren’t all the angels practicing their singing for the performance tonight?”

The other angel looked flustered.  “Yes, Sir.  They are supposed to be, Sir.”

God turned His kindly eyes on Little Angel.  “Does that have something to do with why you’re crying?”

Tears filled his eyes as he nodded.  “I…I can’t…” He sniffled and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his robe.  “I can’t sing!”  Tears spilled down his cheeks.  “The chorus master said I can’t carry a tune.  I should just fly around and hum, but I shouldn’t hum too loud.”  He threw his arm across his face and wailed into his sleeve.  “I don’t want to just hum!  I want to do something important like everyone else!”

God sighed and pushed to His feet.  He patted Little Angel on the head.  “Of course, you do.”

He dropped his arm and stared up at God.  God stood there stroking His thick, white beard.  Finally, God smiled.  He reached over and plucked a few pieces of dirty cloud from the little angel’s red curls.  “You go get cleaned up and meet me at the Pearly Gates in an hour.”

As he took off running, God shouted,  “And straighten up that halo!”

***

Little Angel skidded to a halt in front of God, jolting his halo into a tilt over his right ear.

God reached over and straightened it up.  “You look much better, except you seemed to have missed a few spots on your face.”  God ran a thumb over Little Angel’s cheeks.

He giggled.  “Those are freckles.”

God smiled.  “Ah, so they are.”

He fidgeted.

God chuckled.  “Anxious to find out what you’re doing?  Frankly,”  God’s Voice got very serious.  “I don’t know how we overlooked this task.  It is very important.”

He lifted his chin and drew his shoulders back.

“Do you have your sack of stardust?”

He nodded and lifted the small, red velvet sack hanging from the robe’s tie.

God leaned over and whispered in his ear.

His wings drooped.  “The donkey?  That’s a dumb job.”

God frowned.  “Remember who the donkey is carrying.  But, the donkey is small, so it is important that he have some help with his burden.  Will you help him?”

Little Angel looked up at God with wide eyes.  “Yes, sir.”  He took off running towards a hole in the clouds that would let him drop to earth quickly.  Just as he was diving through, God yelled,  “And straighten up that halo!”

***

Little Angel stood on the side of the road leading to Bethlehem.  Overhead a zillion stars shone, but down here it was dark and cold.  He shivered and pulled his wings around himself.

From around a curve in the road hooves clip-clopped along the frozen ground.  The small donkey staggered a few  steps before it caught itself.  A woman wrapped in a blue cape rode the small creature while a man with a staff walked beside them.  The man walked slowly, now and then patting the donkey’s short neck.  “What a brave little beast you are.”

The donkey’s winter coat was long and fuzzy and very black.  Patches of white hair that matched the hair on its belly, filled its long ears.  It was young, not much more than a baby, really.  And so tired that sometimes its nose dragged the ground.

As the three drew alongside Little Angel, the donkey stopped.  The man rubbed its ears and stood beside it.

Little Angel walked over and placed a hand on its halter.  The donkey lifted big dark eyes to him and groaned.  “I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”

“I will help you.”  Little Angel took the red sack from his belt and knelt.  He dipped his fingertips inside.  When he took them out, they shone with silvery powder.  He swiftly rubbed all four hooves with the silvery powder. “Take a few steps and see if that helps.  Bethlehem is just over that hill.” He pointed towards a  small hill in the distance.

The donkey nodded.  “I’ll try.”  As he stepped forward, he added,  “Your halo’s crooked.”

He straightened up his halo as the donkey took the first short, slow steps.  The donkey twitched its long ears and gave a joyful bray.  “My feet don’t hurt!”

Little Angel jogged next to the donkey as it trotted along the road, nimbly skirting the frozen puddles.

Very soon they reached Bethlehem.  Little Angel waited beside the donkey as the man inquired for a room at inn after inn.  Every place was full until, finally, only one inn was left.  The man sagged with fatigue as he walked to the last door.

The donkey sighed as the man stood talking to the landlord.  “I need something to eat and some water and a place to rest pretty soon. My feet are hurting again.”

Little Angel hugged the donkey.  “I’m sure this is the place we are to stop.  There’s a stable out back.”   He turned and looked at the woman sitting quietly on the donkey.  Her body was bent with tiredness.  He was really glad she hadn’t had to walk.  He turned and gave the donkey another hug.  “You are so brave,” he whispered.

The donkey raised his black nose to Little Angel’s ear.  “The woman’s going to have a baby.  I didn’t think she could walk very far, so I had to try to keep walking for her.”  The donkey sighed.  “Did you know about the baby?”

Little Angel scratched the donkey’s ear.  “Yes, I knew about the baby.”

When the man returned, he led the donkey to the stable behind the inn.  He helped the woman off and spread his own cloak over her as she lay down on a pile of straw.  After she was settled, he took the donkey into another stall to feed and water the animal before returning to the woman, his wife.

Little Angel sat in the corner of the stall as the donkey ate and then tucked his legs under himself to lay down.  “Don’t sleep too soundly,” Little Angel cautioned.  “The celebration will be starting soon.”

He had just finished speaking when a baby cried.  Little Angel rushed to the wall and peeked through the space between two boards.  His eyes widened as the man wrapped the baby in a warm blanket and laid it in the manger next to where the woman lay.  The man stood between the manger and the woman, smiling first at one and then at the other.  The woman’s face shone with happiness as she gazed at her husband and then at the Infant Boy.

The donkey stood next to Little angel, staring through the crack.  “She’s had her baby.”

From far away and above them, singing drifted on the air.  The donkey looked up.  “What’s that?”

A grin stretched Little Angel’s face as he looked up, too.  “That is the angels singing to the shepherds out in the hills.  They are telling them to come to the stable and behold the Child that was born.”

He dropped his eyes to the donkey.  “I have to leave now.”

The donkey nodded.  “Thank you.  I don’t know if I could have made it all this way by myself.”

He gave the donkey a warm hug around its shaggy neck.  “Everyone needs help sometimes.”

As Little Angel flew upwards, the donkey called,  “Hey!  Your halo is….”

He raised both hands and straightened his halo as he flew into the night.  In the distance he heard the final chorus and, all alone, Little Angel began to hum.  As he flew higher, his humming grew louder until, unable to contain his joy, he burst into song.  In a loud, happy voice, and slightly off-key, he added his own heavenly welcome to the Baby lying in the manger.

The End

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories/holiday stories? Would love to hear! Leave a comment!

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