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The Spirit of Christmas
No one knew where he had come from. No one knew his name. He had just shown up one day. Even in my old age I still remember him though. I remember it like it was yesterday.
He came in late November. A startling snowstorm blew around town, covering everything in a white powder. Not a soul would dare go outside, or that was at least what everyone thought.
Faces peered through windows as the old man trudged the streets. I was just a young boy then so the sight almost scared me. It did not seem to phase my mother though because as he passed our entry, she quickly opened the door and invited him in. She had always had a soft side that I still envy today.
I was about to start going berserk out of fright when I saw his face. Wrinkles spider-webbed across it. His eyes were as blue as the ocean and he had a mouth seemingly carved into a subtle smile that warmed my soul even as frostbitten air attempted to enter our home. There was most certainly no harm in it, only peace.
My mother ushered me to the back room so she could converse with this strange man in private. As I peeked through the crack in the door, I attempted to spy on their conversation. The only thing I got out of it was that he needed a place to stay through the holidays. It felt like a long time to me but it did not seem to bother my mother. When my father got home from work that night, he looked a little worried but it did not take him long to allow the stranger to stay.
A few days later, I stepped through the door of our home, set my backpack down, and pulled homework out of it—the usual routine. I paused though as I stood up and found the stranger sitting at our table. It would not have been too odd if the chair he had selected was not directly across from where I usually sat. He had to have picked it on purpose. The weirdest thing about the situation had not even happened yet
So, I casually pretended that nothing was wrong and acted like he wasn’t there as I sat down in my usual spot. What felt like a nuisance soon turned into a blessing though as I made my way through the various homework packets. Whenever I got stuck, he started offering his help on the answers. The man was a genius, a kind genius.
It took me a while to notice it but he seemed to have this strange effect on the house. I always felt peaceful when I came home from school. It had turned into this escape from the chaos of the outside world. Whenever I needed help, he always seemed to be there. Maybe he was just looking for a way to earn his keep but it did not feel like that to me.
A couple of weeks later, I noticed something even stranger going on. I started helping others. The old man had somehow subconsciously programmed me to be as kind as he was. I felt like every nice thing he did for me, I needed to spread it out into the world tenfold. As I held open a door for the fifth, maybe sixth, time on the twenty-fourth of December I began to question what was wrong with me. I needed answers.
I burst through the door into my sanctuary that day with determination. I should have not been surprised but, all the same, I was to find that he was already waiting for me on our old couch. He sat there with the same peaceful grin that filled me with much more warmth than any fireplace could ever provide.
Before I could say anything, he asked me a seemingly simple question, “Have you ever heard of the Spirit of Christmas?”
As I started to nod, it hit me. He had already answered my question before I even had a chance to ask it. There was nothing supernatural about this man, there was nothing spooky, he was just a kind soul hoping to change the world one good deed at a time. Everything surrounding him involved kindness. My mother may have invited him into our house but it was this man who had invited in something much greater.
I realized I was still standing there staring when he spoke again, “Thank you, John, for helping me spread it.” His eyes sparkled and his grin seemed to widen just a bit as he stood up, “I need to leave now but do you think you can do this for me every year? I can only do so much”
Tears welled up in my eyes as he came in to embrace me. A man who I had believed to being taken advantage of my parents’ kindness had actually been taken advantage of by us. And here I was feeling his warmth for the final time. I wanted this moment to last forever.
My parents joined me in the doorway as he walked away, footsteps crunching in the snow, “Thank you all for everything!” He turned around and waved.
“No,” I whispered, “Thank you.” It wasn’t him who had needed us this month, but we who needed him.
I think about him every Christmas now. The spirit that he brought into our lives always brings to light the true meaning of this special time of year. We only get presents if people are willing to give them. We can only be happy if people are willing to reach out. We can only enjoy this time of year to the fullest if we truly embrace the Spirit of Christmas.