I really don’t want to be at work today. At least traffic was light on the way in this morning and the office is really quiet. What do you expect? Tonight is, after all, Christmas Eve. I use to really enjoy this holiday but every year it gets less and less enjoyable. All of the hours spent shopping at busy stores and trying to figure out what to get each person on a list that continues to grow. At least the internet has made shopping easier as long as you plan ahead a little. Focusing on the reason for the season – the birth of Christ would help make the season better until I found out that Christmas Day isn’t even the actual birthday of Jesus. The church chose to celebrate it on this day. Almost as if the church is trying to make this holiday all about them. It seems they have to find a reason to steal all of the celebrations and guilt people into attending. I’m sure I’ve got this mixed up somehow but that is just how it seems to me. So now it’s just another Christmas.
Should be a slow day around the office because so many people have taken the day off so I won’t be able to take care of things that require help from co-workers. Probably a good day to take care of things that have been on my desk awhile as low priority. Hopefully I can get out of here a little early and finish up my last minute shopping before going home and getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner at our house. At lunch time there wasn’t much going on so I decided to leave for the day to get home with the family to celebrate. As luck would have it, trying to walk out the door I get stopped to take care of a problem since there really isn’t anyone else around that can take care of it. Fortunately I have a few minutes so let’s hurry up and get this taken care of. An hour and a half later I finally made it through the front. Lunch is out of the question in order to take care of the last few gifts and get home on time.
Great, it’s starting to snow! This is going to make the afternoon that much more fun. Finally arriving at the store and the parking lot is full. After driving around the lot for several minutes a spot opens up and I take it. A quick glance at my phone highlights the fact that now I’m running late and need to hurry through the store. Like that is possible with all these people here! This is what they call battle shopping. Weaving in and out of other people, dodging shopping carts, working your way in between people to get to the shelf only to find the person ahead of you grabbed the last item you were looking for. Not quite as bad as black Friday but close. Some people consider this fun. Not me! Surprisingly shopping went faster than expected and all that is left is to check out with the cashier. This certainly helps put my timeline back on schedule until my phone starts singing telling me there’s a new text message. Yep, I need to fight my way through the store once again to pick up forgotten items for this evening. Patience is running thin as I’m in a hurry once again. Looking around the store it is clear I’m not the only one. We are all try to be cordial if only on the surface.
Racing towards the exit I can see the snow is still falling. The roads must be covered by now causing traffic to move slowly. Using my gloves to remove the snow from the door so snow doesn’t fall inside when the door is opened, I shove the packages into the car. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a woman bent down. She must have dropped something. After brushing the freshly falling snow from the rest of the car I open the driver’s door ready to get in when I see this woman again and she is still bent down. Another quick gaze at my phone tells me I really need to get going. A further look reveals a child with this woman. Walking towards the pair shows they are both wearing tattered sweatshirts and shivering. Not enough to keep warm in this wintery weather. Quickly my jacket is around the child and I’m running back to the car to retrieve what blankets there are in the trunk. Within a few minutes they are both wrapped in blankets trying to find any bit of warmth they can. Their thin, pale faces indicate they have not eaten in awhile so I ask if I might provide a meal in a warm place pointing to a sandwich shop nearby. A few moments pass and the mother hesitantly agrees bringing the first smile to my face this holiday season.
Driving a short distance we all get out of the car and go in to enjoy a quick meal and warm our fingers. They each order a full meal while I get a warm drink. While these two eat like they have not had anything in a couple of days I send a text to my wife admitting that I would be late tonight and apologizing. It’s almost as if I had just finished typing when there was a reply: “Another late night at the office? We really need you here! Your mom and dad will be here any minute.” I could feel the displeasure in this response but this mother and child are more important than another Christmas dinner right now. As the mother is finishing her sandwich I could see some color entering her face and the child was beginning to move a little more fluidly. The warmth had started thawing their muscles allowing them to relax a little. Appearing as though conversation might be possible I asked the child what her name was. She quickly responded with “Sara”. A few minutes more revealed she was 4 years old and really liked ice cream. I mentioned that I had two daughters with the youngest being just a little bit older than her.
Turning towards her mother I thanked her for allowing me to buy them lunch and asked where they were headed. She said they really didn’t know. This economy has impacted them greatly forcing them to leave their house and sell whatever they could to get by. Knowing this I asked if Sara and Michelle (Sara’s mom’s name) would like to join us for a wonderful Christmas meal and a warm, comfortable place to sleep. Michelle refused saying I had done enough already and they weren’t about to impose on my family further. I continued to press, inviting them to our home with no luck. Michelle did not feel up to meeting a bunch of new people in her present condition. Understanding this, I offered an alternative – how about staying in a hotel for the night with a warm room and place they could get a good night’s sleep? Immediately she began to reply “No” but then hesitated while looking at her daughter. Finally she agreed and we retreated back to the car.
The snow had continued leaving beautiful wonderland and slow driving making what usually would have been a quick trip to the closest hotel a bit more challenging. Inching along with the heater blowing full blast, their blankets started to loosen indicating Sara and Michelle were finally warming up. Finally we entered the parking lot and I pulled up to the front entrance. I walked up to the front desk and asked for a room while the other two hung back close to the door. Apparently the hotel was booked up for the night with nothing available. Pleading I asked if there was anything they could do. These two have been out in the cold for a long time and have no place to stay tonight. Again the reply was there was nothing available.
Feeling defeated heading back towards Michelle and Sara to tell them the news a gentleman spoke up “Sir!?” Turning around with a disappointed look I pointed to myself as if to ask “me?” He walked towards me and said his family had two rooms reserved for the night but that I could have one for these two ladies if he could get a cot to add to one of the rooms. Bounding back towards the desk with this kind man in tow we inquired about a cot for his room. After getting him and his family set up, one of his rooms was transferred to Michelle and Sara and at a nice discount thanks to the hotel staff. I shook his hand aggressively thanking him to whole time for the generosity of him and his family. As they headed off towards their room I spoke with a loud tone almost shouting “Merry Christmas!”
I walked with Michelle carrying Sara towards their room. Both were beginning to yawn as these weary travelers were warm and full. A nice shower and comfortable bed will be the perfect way to spend this wonderful holiday. Reaching the door Sara had fallen asleep in my arms bringing yet another smile to my face. Looking over towards her mother I could see she had the beginning of a smile also. Entering the room I placed this wonderful child on her bed and started for the door. Michelle thanked me for all that I had done on this Christmas Eve day. I was grateful for the opportunity and wished her a “Merry Christmas” while hurrying out the door as I was incredibly late for celebrating with my own family. Returning to the car I remembered the gifts I had purchased earlier. They should be able to open presents too I thought.
Knocking I could tell I surprised Michelle as she slowly opened her door to see who was there. Handing her the packages I whispered “Merry Christmas” one more time so as to not wake up Sara and explained which ones were for her and her daughter. There were tears beginning to well up in her eyes causing me to quickly turn away and say good bye one last time before those same tears entered my eyes. As I neared the exit I could hear the pounding of footsteps racing closer and closer. Turning around there was Michelle with my jacket saying that I had forgotten it. She wrapped her arms around me giving one of the most grateful hugs I have ever received saying “thank you for saving our lives today!” As tears began to roll down my face running into my ever smiling lips I thought” I didn’t save you, you saved me!” Michelle and Sara were two angels sent to remind me the meaning of this great holiday. This wasn’t just another Christmas. It was one of the best Christmas’s ever!