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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 18, 2014

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus?” she snorted….”Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. “Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were — ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share,

HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…

And may you always believe in the magic of Christmas!

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 18, 1998

Kleenex Alert

On Christmas Eve a young soldier feeling trapped in London during the 2nd World War was very lonely and sad to be away from his family and home.

As the war still raged on in London this was a very dangerous time and place with Churches and most other social and public places either closed or destroyed. And so in spite of this, the young soldier organized amongst a few of his mates to go out on Christmas Eve and to make Christmas of whatever they found. Shortly after leaving their military compound they came across an old grey building with an affixed sign, which said, “Queen Anne’s Orphanage”.

This was perfect they all thought. The young men’s hearts pounded quickly and they gathered themselves and knocked on the door. The door slowly opened as a kind elderly woman cautiously emerged from behind it and bid them all a Merry Christmas, then, asking how she might be of any help?

The young soldier then stepped forward and asked if they could come in for a few minutes to greet and talk with the children. The elderly keeper with a beaming smile then welcomed and invited them in. As the soldiers began to enter they could hear the clamoring of children in the background as they came running down the stairs to see who was at the door. Again, the soldiers’ minds raced in anticipation and thinking about the goodness they were all about to unselfishly perform but upon entering their hearts sank.

Once inside this old grey building and faced with the curiosity, innocence and happiness of the children they were shocked by the contrast as they witnessed the undeniable poverty of this abode and that which also must have also stricken the lives of these orphans. The children were all very poorly dressed. There was no Christmas tree or decorations of any sorts. No real furnishing to speak of, just a barren and empty cold dark place.

The soldiers then mustered their spirits and stepped forward and did what they came to do. They greeted and spent time talking with the children and searched their pockets for anything that they could possibly offer and share with these youngsters, a stick of gum, candy, special coins, ribbons, whistles … just anything.

Their hearts and souls were filled with the spirit of giving as they could see that by their very presence and their sincere and genuine attention to these innocent children which society had forgotten that they were making a difference no matter how small. The young men all felt the warmth inside of giving and sharing.

Then when it was time to leave and as the young soldier was getting ready to step out the door he noticed one small boy of about five years old standing in the corner all by himself crying softly.

As he looked on at the boy from afar he was then reminded of his own son back home who would now surely be about the same age. The soldier paused and was overtaken with flooding emotions as he rekindled in his heart and his mind the feeling and vision of seeing and being with his young son again.

He then deliberately walked over to the young crying orphan boy, seeing the tears stream down his tiny pink cheeks while his bottom lip quivered as he approached. He tried to regain his composure but the boy could also see the emotion in the soldier eyes.

He then knelt down on one knee so that he could look the boy in the eyes; and then, with great sentiment, care and kindness he asked, “Hey little fella, what would you like for Christmas?”

Without hesitation the young boy stepped forward and simply said, “Hold me! Hold me tight!”

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 17, 2007

Depressed and brokenhearted, a man named Bob May stared out of his drafty apartment window in to the chilling December night. His four year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing.

Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara could not understand why her mother could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t mummy just like everybody else’s mummy?”

Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves not only of grief, but also of anger.

It had been the story of Bob’s life, which always had to be different for him.

As a child, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was frequently called names he would rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. However, Bob completed college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get a job as a copy-writer at Montgomery Ward during the great depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s battle with cancer stripped them of all their savings. Now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn passed on just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he could not purchase a present, he was determined to make one – a storybook.

Bob had created a character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again, Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.

Who was the character? What was the story all about? The tale Bob created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day – but the story doesn’t end there.

The general manage of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distributed it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.

By 1946, Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of “Rudolph”. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.

In an unprecedented gesture of Kindness, the chief executive officer of Wards returned all the rights to Bob. The book became a best seller!

Many toy and marketing deals followed. Bob, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn’t end their either…………………

Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to “Rudolph”. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy.

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of White Christmas.

The gift of love that Bob created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again.

And Bob learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different can be a blessing.

By – Geoffrey Keyte

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 15, 2012

He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still! Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.

Why did he feel so awake tonight? He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.

“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”

“Well, you can’t, Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he tok his turn.”

“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”

When he heard these words, something in him spoke: his father loved him! He had never thought of that before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children–they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm.

Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling blindly in his sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes shut, but he got up.

And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was fifteen, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought him something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something, too.

He wished, that Christmas when he was fifteen, he had a better present for his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas. He looked out of his attic window, the stars were bright.

“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “What is a stable?”

“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”

Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds had come…

The thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do, and he musn’t sleep too sound.

He must have waked twenty times, scratching a match to look each time to look at his old watch — midnight, and half past one, and then two o’clock.

At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.

He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and get him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty, they’d be standing in the milk-house, filled.

“What the–,” he could hear his father exclaiming.

He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant.

The task went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch.

Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.

“Rob!” His father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”

“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.

The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.

The minutes were endless — ten, fifteen, he did not know how many — and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.

“Rob!”

“Yes, Dad–“

His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of laugh.

“Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing by his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.

“It’s for Christmas, Dad!”

He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each others faces.

“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing–“

“Oh, Dad, I want you to know — I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.

He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree. Oh what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.

“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”

They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead, he remembered it alone: that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.

This Christmas he wanted to write a card to his wife and tell her how much he loved her, it had been a long time since he had really told her, although he loved her in a very special way, much more than he ever had when they were young. He had been fortunate that she had loved him. Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love. Love was still alive in him, it still was.

It occurred to him suddenly that it was alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him. That was it: Love alone could awaken love. And he could give the gift again and again.This morning, this blessed Christmas morning, he would give it to his beloved wife. He could write it down in a letter for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began his love letter to his wife: My dearest love…

Such a happy, happy Christmas!

By Pearl S. Buck
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 10, 2010

Chippenham George worked for the Post Office and his job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses.  One day just before Christmas, a letter landed on his desk simply addressed in shaky handwriting: ‘To God’.  With no other clue on the envelope, George opened the letter and read:

Dear God,

I am an 93 year old widow living on the State pension.  Yesterday someone stole my purse.  It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world and no pension due until after Christmas.  Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas lunch.  Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with.  I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope.  God; can you please help me?

Chippenham George was really touched, and being kind hearted, he put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board at the main Fareham sorting office where he worked.  The letter touched the other postmen and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip round.  Between them they raised £95.  [$170 USD] Using an officially franked Post Office envelope, they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done.

Christmas came and went.  A few days later, another letter simply addressed to ‘God’ landed in the Sorting Office.  Many of the postmen gathered around while George opened the letter.  It read,

Dear God,

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely luncheon for my friends.  We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift – in fact we haven’t gotten over it and even Father John, our parish priest, is beside himself with joy.  By the way, there was £5 [$10 USD] missing.  I think it must have been those thieving fellows at the Post Office.

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 9, 2014

There was a man who went out in the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. “Dear friends, help me!” said he. “My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.”

But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied.

The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were were sleeping around the fire, and an old shepherd sat and watched over the flock.

When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark; but not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him.

He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at this hand and that one clung to this throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.

Now the man wished to go farther, to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped upon their backs and walked over them and up to the fire. And not one of the animals awoke or moved.

When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the strange man coming, he seized the long, spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but, before it reached him, it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out in the meadow.

Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him: “Good man, help me, and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.”

The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn’t hurt the man, and the sheep had not run from him, and that the staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid, and dared not deny the man that which he asked.

“Take as much as you need!” he said to the man.

But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals, and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.

When the shepherd saw this, he said again: “Take as much as you need!” And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.

But the man stopped and picked coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples.

And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hardhearted man, saw all this, he began to wonder to himself. What kind of a night is this, when the dogs do not bite, the sheep are not scared, the staff does not kill, or the fire scorch? He called the stranger back and said to him: “What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion?”

Then said the man: “I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.” And he wished to go his way, that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.

But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he had found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.

Then the shepherd saw the man didn’t have so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing except the cold and naked stone walls.

But the shepherd thought that perhaps the poor innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought he would like to help it. And he loosened the knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft white sheepskin, gave it to the strange man, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.

But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened, and he saw what he had not been able to see before, and heard what he could not have heard before.

He saw that all around him stood a ring of little silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument, and all sang in loud tones that tonight the Saviour was born who should redeem the world from its sins.

Then he understood how all things were so happy this night that they didn’t want to do anything wrong.

And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain, and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.

There was such jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! And all this he saw in the dark night whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God.

What that shepherd saw, we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them.

You must remember this, for it is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is that we have such eyes as can see God’s glory.

By Selma Lagerlof
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
December 8, 2008

It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over.  Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.

Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around.  The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little.  Now they had gone.  His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now.  But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.

Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story.  He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”

He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts.  Papa Panov’s face fell.  “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.

Then his face brightened.  He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms t the shelf high up in his little room.  He took down a small, dusty box and opened it.  Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes.  Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction.  Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made.  “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.

He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became.  The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute.   In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.

And as he slept he dreamed.  He dreamed that someone was in his room and he know at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was.  It was Jesus.

“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow.  It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you.  But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”

When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters.  “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov.  “It’s Christmas Day!”

He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff.  Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream.  This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him.  How would he look?  Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas?  Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son?  He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.

Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters and looked out of the window.  The street was deserted, no one was stirring yet.  No one except the road sweeper.  He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might!  Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?

Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air.  “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily.  “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”

The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears.  He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.

Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and them his eyes strayed to the window.  It would never do to miss his special visitor.

“Expecting someone?”  the sweeper asked at last.  So Papa Panov told him about his dream.

“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “you’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have.   I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.”  And he actually smiled.

When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street.  He saw no one.  But he was mistaken.  Someone was coming.

The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses, that it was a while before he noticed her.  She looked very tired and she was carrying something.  As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl.  There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby, that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.

“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them.  “You both need a warm by the fire and a rest.”

The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair.  She gave a big sigh of relief.

“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.”  He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.

“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.

But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money.  I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”

Sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind.  He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night.  But he had been keeping those for Jesus.  He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.

“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother.  The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit.   The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.

“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go.  “May all your Christmas wishes come true!”

But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true.  Perhaps he had missed his visitor?  He looked anxiously up and down the street.  There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized.  There were neighbors going to call on their families.  They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas!  Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.

All too soon the winter dusk fell.  When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by.  most were home and indoors by now anyway.  He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair.

So it had been just a dream after all.  Jesus had not come.

Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room.

This was not dream for he was wide awake.  At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day.  He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed.  As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?”

“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered.

Then another voice answered him.  It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus.

“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said.  “I was naked and you clothed me.  I was cold and you warmed me.  I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.”

Then all was quiet and still.  Only the sound of the big clock ticking.  A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy.

“So he did come after all!” was all that he said.

 

By - Leo Tolstoy
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