It was Saturday evening, three days before Christmas, and the night after the nativity play. My brothers, grandparents, and I were all getting ready to go Christmas caroling with my grandparent’s church.
Despite my ongoing saga of wondering whether or not I would ever hear from God or ever be happy again, I was excited! I hadn’t been Christmas caroling since I was little. Benny and Oliver had never been, and I was excited for them to have the experience.
“Is it time to go yet?” Oliver asked Grandma.
Oliver had been asking for the past hour and every time Grandma had told him “no” and to have more patience. However, this time Grandma finally answered with, “Yes, it is time to go!”
Oliver let out a whoop and ran to get Benny. For the next twenty minutes, Grandma ran around the house dressing them both and making sure Grandpa and I were both bundled up well.
“It’s 21 degrees outside; I am not going to have you freeze!” she kept repeating when one of us would protest.
Finally, when Grandma was satisfied with her work, Grandpa called out, “Let’s load her up!”
We all loaded into the car and drove to one of the neighborhoods across from where Grandma and Grandpa’s church met. It was definitely a poorer neighborhood, but I could tell that was not going to stop any of the residents from having a happy and joyous Christmas. Most houses had lights up, which made last night’s snow sparkle, and the atmosphere was simple, light, and happy.
One by one, house by house, we gave our small town “church choir performance.” The people loved it, especially the neighborhood children. After we would sing for a house, we would hand out candy canes or cookies that some of the older ladies of the congregation had made or brought.
Soon we were at the last house on the block. It didn’t have any lights up at all and the snow had practically all melted. The house and yard seemed empty, bare, and almost vacant. However, there were a few lights shining from within the house that showed someone must live inside.
A man named Frank, from the church, went up and knocked on the door. We all stood out in the street waiting and then a woman answered the door. She was surrounded by three little children and she was holding a baby in her arms.
“Good evening!” Frank said.
“Good evening,” the lady echoed back with a small, tired smile.
“We are singing Christmas songs. Would you care to hear a few?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile and nod.
We all began to sing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and the children next to the woman began to smile and clap. Benny, Oliver, and some of the other children from the church joined in. By the time the song was over, it had practically turned into a gospel choir song!
The children asked for more. So, indeed we gave more! Every time we would start another song, the children would clap. The clapping and the joy from the children got us all excited and clapping too. Every song was a praise session within itself!
We all smiled and laughed as the older congregation members danced and played with the children. Some of the actual choir members began to sing as loud as they could. It was as if everyone was getting lost in the joy of the Christmas season. When it all ended, we all laughed and talked for a few moments with the lady at the door and the children by her side
Just as we were all about to leave, Benny suddenly shouted out, “Wait! They don’t have a tree!”
We all stopped, turned, and looked at Benny. Grandma and I both gave him look as if to say “Benny, don’t say that! That’s rude.” I was about to say something, but then I too found myself peering into the woman’s house.
It was true. From where I was standing all I could see was a t.v. on one wall and a brown couch on the other. There were stockings hung up, but there was no Christmas tree.
By now, the lady was embarrassed, and Grandma was scolding Benny for pointing it out and being so rude. The woman came further out of her house and all her children followed her.
“No, it’s true,” she said now standing next to Benny, “We don’t have a tree this year.” Her eyes looked sad, as if she might cry. “My husband left six months ago, and we haven’t been doing well since.”
Benny stepped toward the lady and all her children. Putting his hand on the lady’s arm he said, “Oh, I am so sorry.” Then in a blink of an eye, Benny’s face lit up. “Wait a minute!” he exclaimed, “We have two trees at home! We could give you one! Can’t we?” Benny asked turning back towards Grandma.
Grandma stood there for a minute with a surprised look on her face and then smiled. “Of course we can, can’t we, Pete?”
Grandpa moved closer and put an arm around Grandma. “Of course we can, Helen. We have plenty of time to get it all fixed up before Christmas too!”
Some of the other ladies began to chat about ornaments and lights, while the men decided who could do what when. And I stood there dumbfounded…and furious! How could my little brother offer to give away one of Grandma’s trees?! Grandma had had those two trees in her house for as long as I could remember!
Even if I was okay with giving the tree to this lady, the tree definitely wouldn’t be taken care of here! It would be ruined within weeks, much less appreciated and loved the way Grandma, Grandpa, and the rest of us loved and appreciated it.
“What’s wrong?” Oliver asked, coming over to me. “Isn’t this great? This is like what happens on that one T.V. channel Grandma always cries at!”
“The Hallmark channel?” I said with a laugh.
“Yeah, that!” Then he bounced away and began to talk with some of the boys.
Soon it was time to go, and when we got back to the van, I was a grumpy, angry, frustrated mess. I was trying to hold back tears and all the thoughts that swirled in my mind. It wasn’t fair! It just wasn’t fair.
Why should someone like her get something I loved so dearly? What did she ever do to deserve it? Nothing! Leave it to Benny to open his big mouth and have us all end up losing something we loved.
How could Grandma and Grandpa not even ask if I was okay with it or if anyone else was okay with giving the trees away? What if I wanted to pass the tree down to my children some day?
I huffed in disgust and looked out the van window. Then slowly but surely, I watched the neighborhood and the houses full of light and snow fade away until we were back at Grandma’s house again.
To Be Continued…(Matthew 6:31-33)