The Greatest Gift of All
By Rod Nichols (Rod@RodNichols.com)
My story begins on a window ledge, twelve stories up, where I almost ended my life. Prior to that day I had been a huge success. A world famous writer who was living the magical life most people only dream about. I shared my life with Marie, my wife of twelve years and three great kids. We lived in a waterfront estate and I had all the toys a man could ever want. But I threw it all away.
My fall happened so quickly and yet it took years. As my books were announced as NY Times best-sellers, Harold, my agent, scheduled long book signing circuits. I missed Marie and the kids dreadfully. I would call every night.
Following each engagement, were offers to go celebrate. I would decline and go back to my room to work on my next book and to call home. After several months of feeling the pressures of my schedule and impending deadlines, I started to accept the party invitations. At first it was just a couple of drinks, a little dinner and back to my room to write, but soon I was finding comfort in a bottle every night. My calls home became sporadic, as did my writing. Both Marie and Harold were concerned. I assured them it was just the stress of the trip. Although this pacified Harold, Marie sensed I was in trouble.
One evening, after a particularly hard day, I was in the hotel bar when she appeared. Streams of blonde hair surrounded her beautiful face and her model's figure was packed into a tight, revealing dress. The rest of the evening is just a blur. I awoke the next morning to the blonde beside me in bed and a loud knock on the door. I collected myself and answered the door. There stood Marie, who had flown in to surprise me; boy was it ever a surprise!
Marie divorced me and took the kids. I was lost without my family. Couldn't think or write. All I did was drink. Soon the money was gone. I was bankrupt, homeless, and empty. Then came that fateful day, when I climbed out on that twelfth floor ledge. I had nothing left to live for and was ready to jump, when I heard a voice.
"What are you doing mister?"
I turned to see a small blonde girl with tattered clothes and a dirt smudged face.
"Just admiring the view."
"Can I look too?"
To my dismay, she climbed out on the ledge and nuzzled up next to me, shivering. I noticed she didn't have a coat, so I wrapped her in mine. She looked up at me.
"What's your name."
"Peter," I said abruptly, hoping to scare her away.
"My name is Sarah."
She smiled. A smile that would light up the world; my world.
"What are you doing up here Sarah? Where are your mommy and daddy?"
"I don't know,” she replied, with tears welling up in her big blue eyes.
"I was left in an alley when I was a baby and grew up in an orphanage, but there were bad people at the orphanage, so I ran away."
"Do you live here in this building?"
"I live everywhere,” she said with another big smile.
We sat on the ledge and talked for so long that I forgot why I'd gone out there in the first place. I could see that Sarah was getting tired, so we crawled back into the vacant building and found a good place to sleep. She was asleep in seconds, but I just sat there watching her sleep, missing my own children.
The next day, we discovered that Sarah did not exist in the City or County records. I expected her to be disappointed, but instead she just grinned at me.
"Now I can stay with you!"
"Oh no, where would we live? How would I feed you?"
"I can take care of myself. I wouldn't be no trouble."
That angelic face and those eyes, how could I turn her away?
I inquired about the procedure to adopt Sarah, but since there was no record of her and I didn't have a permanent address, nothing could be done.
Sarah and I became inseparable. We lived in shelters and begged for money to buy food. Each day my love for Sarah grew, but I knew that she deserved better. One morning, after a shower and shave, I stood in front of a broken mirror in a thrift store suit. My face showed the effect of the alcohol and hard living. No more, I vowed! I noticed Sarah standing behind me.
"Wow, you look great!"
"Thanks, I'm going out to find a job and I want you to stay here until I come back."
As I finished tidying up and putting my things away, I noticed a 3x5 size card with elegant gold trim, on my bunk. The card was printed with gold calligraphy lettering. It read:
Go the Extra Mile
I didn't have much time to wonder about the card, just slid it in my inside pocket and started off to find a job. Newspapers, magazines, and advertising agencies all turned me away. Feeling discouraged, I sat down on a park bench. As I did, I remembered the card . . . Go the Extra Mile. I did something I hadn't done in years; I prayed.
As I looked up, I noticed a small office with the words Christian Chronicle painted on an old wood sign. I felt myself being led to that little office. A bell rang loudly as I entered and a voice arose from somewhere in the back, "I'll be right there." I gazed around the room and noticed the many articles on the wall. I scanned a few and realized that these all told the stories of famous writers. Then one stopped me in my tracks, as I saw a photo of myself. The article told my story of success.
"Hello, how can I help you?"
As I turned, I was greeted by a jolly looking fellow with a rather large, but nicely trimmed beard, half glasses, and a tweed jacket.
"I'm looking for a job and was hoping you might have something."
He looked at me inquisitively.
"Why would the great Peter Hamilton want to work in my humble business?"
I heard his words, but there was a twinkle in his eye that told me he already knew the answer.
"I was over on that park bench when I saw your sign. It was as if I were led here."
He just smiled at me for a moment and then said, "You were!"
He turned and walked away, motioning for me to follow. We stopped and peered into a small dusty room with an old roll top desk, file cabinet, and bookshelf. He turned, smiled and extended his hand. "Peter, this will be your office. It hasn't been used for awhile, but it will do. Welcome to the Christian Chronicle, I'm Solomon."
Solomon gave me an advance so that Sarah and I could rent an apartment, purchase new clothes, and buy food. I worked hard for Solomon and the Christian Chronicle and as I did, my life started to pull back together. I attended a church program for alcoholics and gave up the drinking. Life was good, but there was still an empty spot in my heart that Marie had once filled. I also wondered why I was awarded this second chance?
I was pondering this one day, as unlocked the front door of the Chronicle and wandered aimlessly back to my office. On my desk, I found a tattered copy of my most famous book, Full of Life. Rather strange, since I was the last one out of the office and had locked the door.
My chapter on Purpose was marked with another strange, gold embossed card . . .
Discover Your Purpose
As I continued to thumb through the pages I came to an old, folded note. My heart jumped a beat as I read:
This is your finest work. Your words will shed light on those who have lost their way and bring them out of the darkness. I am so proud of you!
A tear rolled down my face and on to the note, smearing the writing. Reading Marie's note made me realize that my purpose was to use my writing to help people improve their lives. I purchased a used computer and started writing again. It felt good. I was back!
The seasons were changing and winter was approaching. Sarah was so excited about Christmas; our first together. We still didn't have much money, but when I would get depressed over the money, Sarah would remind me that we had our love for each other.
One evening I had tucked a sleepy Sarah into bed and was staring blankly at computer screen. I blindly reached for some notes and instead found another card . . .
Love is the Greatest Gift of All. Give it Freely!
My writer's block was instantly gone and within a matter of an hour I had written an excellent short story, The Greatest Gift of All. I don't even remember writing the story. It was as if someone else had typed the words.
The next day I showed the story to Solomon. As he read it, tears streamed down his face. He looked at me warmly.
"This is a great story and I know exactly what to do with it."
For days he wouldn't say what he was up to, but finally one day he came into my office.
"I showed your story to an old friend who is the editor of a major magazine. She loved it and wants to publish it in the December issue and here is check for the royalty" Sarah and I had a great Christmas.
One morning I was at work early when I heard the front door bell. Wandering out front, I found a well-dressed businessman looking at the articles. He turned and I recognized my old friend and agent Harold. We hugged each other for what seemed like hours.
"It's great to see you Peter. You look great!"
We spent the next hour catching up on lives past. Harold had become one of the top literary agents. He had seen my story and tracked me down through the magazine.
"Peter, your story really moved me. Do you have an agent?"
"Harold, I haven't written anything major in years."
"You will, and when you do I want to be there with you."
We hugged and said our good-byes.
I sat there wondering if I could still write in the way that I once had. I had serious doubts. I put on my overcoat and as I reached into my pocket for my keys, something poked me. I pulled it out and found that it was another card. There were three words. . .
Trust in God
Sarah was at a friend’s house for the night, so no need to hurry home. Even though it was a brisk winter night, I decided to take a walk. Walking aimlessly, I found myself in front of the church where Marie and I had been married. The door was open. At the dimly lit altar a single figure was kneeling. I sat in one of the pews near the back of the church and began to pray. I prayed for strength, guidance and as always, that someday, somehow Marie and I would get back together. I was unaware of the figure standing above me.
"Peter, is that you?"
I looked up into the most beautiful face I had ever seen. It was Marie.
The encounter was very awkward at first, but soon we were in each other's arms crying. I asked her forgiveness. She nodded, with tears in her eyes. We walked and talked for hours. Marie had not remarried and was living just blocks from my apartment with the kids. She was reluctant to bring me too quickly back into their lives, as they had been through some tough years. I understood. She was fascinated with my story of how Sarah had saved me from ending my life and was now living with me. The sun was starting to come up when we parted, with plans for Marie to have dinner with Sarah and me.
That next evening was magical. Sarah and Marie instantly fell in love. My heart felt so whole. All I needed now was to see the kids again and to hopefully earn my way back into their hearts. That took time, but after a year, Marie and I were married and we were a family again.
After the honeymoon, we bought a house and resumed our life together. I had new inspiration and within two months had completed a manuscript. I gave it to Marie and after several days, she came to me. "Peter, this is truly your best work. It has much of the same style as your other best-sellers, but there is something more powerful and moving in this book. God has definitely touched you."
Marie helped type the final manuscript and we rushed it off to Harold. A year later the book was in the bookstores and was an instant best-seller. The words were moving the country in the same way they had all of us. I was back on top.
I was on the road again - book signings and speaking engagements. At the first book signing a man who strangely resembled Solomon handed me his copy of my book. He said thank you and gave me what I thought was a business card. When I looked down it was another gold lettered card . . .
Something must be lost in order to gain.
I looked up, but he had disappeared.
I finished the tour and upon arriving home, I found the house in an uproar. Apparently Sarah had not come home from school. Marie had called the school; Sarah's teacher had seen her get on the school bus. We tracked down the bus driver, who remembered Sarah getting on the bus, but not off. He thought she must have slipped off with a friend. Marie called all of her friends, but none of them had seen her since school. She then called the police, while I retraced her steps. Although the police, our family and friends searched all night, we could not find my beloved Sarah.
The next day with the kids at school and Marie off running errands, I had plenty of time to think and pray. I prayed that Sarah would walk through the door. Around noon I brought in the mail and found an elegant looking envelope with just my name, no address or stamp. I opened it quickly.
My Dearest Peter,
You must be frantic by now over my disappearance. I am safe. My work there on earth is done. Although I must leave you physically, I will be with you always . . . in your heart. Remember that love is the greatest gift of all. Give it freely through your writing. The world needs it. You have learned your lessons well and now your earthly work begins. Please don't be sad, my leaving will bring another love into your life. Very soon you will understand.
I was just sitting there staring at the letter, with tears flowing from my eyes, when Marie burst through the door and into my arms. "I have the greatest news. I just came from the doctor and we're going to have a baby!" Then a tear slipped from her eye. "Now if Sarah were just here to share the news." I handed Marie the letter.
"She is and she's given us the greatest gift of all."
Rod Nichols is an Associate Pastor at Truth and Grace Foursquare Church in Tacoma, WA. He is also a published author and accomplished public speaker and teacher. Rod’s latest articles and books can be found at www.RodNichols.com. Rod is married with five children. He and his wife Karen live in beautiful Washington State. Rod is available as a freelance writer. If you'd like to hire him, e-mail Rod@RodNichols.com.
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Ron, I can't stop the tears. I am moved like I haven't been in a very long time. Your story is so full of the reality of most of our lives. At one time or another we have all failed our family, our God, and ourselves. You have so elegantly shown us, The Greatest Gift Of All. Thank you sir; thank you so much! God bless you!