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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Gifts (of the Spirit or service) (11/22/07)

TITLE: Margaret's Christmas
By sharron pete


The bell rang signaling the beginning of another day as Ms. Gentry tried to quiet her third grade class. It was the first day back from Christmas vacation. Two weeks of playing, staying up late, and eating to their heart’s content had made everyone a little restless. Not to mention all the new toys and adventures that the time of the year always brought.

“Children, please. I know you’re all excited to talk about your Christmas vacations. But the bell has rung and we have so much new material to cover.”

Giving Ms. Gentry their attention, the children finally settled down. Then, Ms. Gentry announced a contest. Each student was to write a short report on what they did during their Christmas break -a twist to what they were used to. The students had two days to get their thoughts together and present them on paper.

The papers vast and varied came flooding in. New pets, clothes, toys and video games all made the list. And while many of the stories were nice, none quite touched Ms. Gentry the way she thought. She felt that somehow they had truly missed the meaning of Christmas. She had almost given up hope. That is, until she read the last paper. At the very bottom of the stack was the one shining star that captured the meaning of Christmas.

Margaret Ann Welch was possibly the quietest student in Ms. Gentry’s third grade class. She kept to herself though usually not out of choice. Her family was quite poor. Many of her clothes were tattered and torn. Yet she always maintained a humble spirit. Never defeated, just humbled. It was a rare quality for someone at such a young age. Without Nintendo®, PlayStation®, or Bratz™ she just didn’t have much in common with her peers. Usually they only took notice of her out of pity or mockery. But this day would be different.

The class sat at attention as they waited patiently for Ms. Gentry to announce the winner of the contest. When Margaret’s name was called she was just as shocked as the others. Smiling, Ms. Gentry handed Margaret her paper and asked that she read it aloud for the class. As she began to read, the students listened and their expressions shifted from amusement to surprise to shame.

"My name is Margaret Ann Welch. I have five brothers and sisters. My family is poor and does not have much money. Many people make fun of us because of this. But, I do not care because I have the best mommy and daddy in the world. Everyday they teach us about God and his son Jesus. They teach us that we can be anything we want to because Jesus was not a rich man. But he was the Savior of the world, the hardest most important job that anyone can have. This Christmas my family and I spent our day serving meals to homeless people at the Fourth Avenue Shelter. We got to see how truly blessed we are to have food, clothes, and shelter. After we served Christmas dinner we led a group of kids in singing Christmas carols to the adults.”

As she read, she glanced from her paper to see what affect her words had on her audience. Everyone seemed to be paying attention. The giggles and whispers that had originally disturbed her speech were silenced. Looking about the room, eyes met hers and looked away mostly in shame at their behavior. One pair of eyes remained cast down, not once meeting hers. The blue hooded sweatshirt and faded jeans were familiar to her. She had seen those weeks before.

As she concluded her paper, Margaret took her seat but not before being handed the grand prize by Ms. Gentry. Recess came and Margaret walked over to the familiar blue hooded sweatshirt and faded jeans. In his eyes, she could see the question. And without words she handed him the white envelope and whispered gently in his ear, ‘Your secret is safe with me’.

That night, Joey and his family had the best dinner they'd had in weeks, at Pizza Palace.

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Member Comments
Member Date
James Dixon11/29/07
A lovely illustration of service and how honouring other's feelings can be so important. The service would have meant nothing but for the final twist at the end. Very clever.
Jan Ackerson 11/30/07
You really got me with that last twist--way to go!
Dee Yoder 12/03/07
Beautiful story that's beautifully written. I love the characters and the twist at the end.
Joanne Sher 12/03/07
Very sweet - love how you ended it. Nice character development.
Holly Westefeld12/06/07
Congratulations. I enjoyed this beautiful Christmas story.
Peter Stone12/07/07
Lovely article with a touching ending. Congrats on your placing.