I was trying not to be ungrateful. I was healthy; I had a bed under me and a roof over my head, but as I looked around my bunker the seed of jealousy sprouted in me like a match to sandpaper. It kept scratching and rubbing until the jealousy ignited and flamed fiercely.
All around me fellow soldiers were receiving gift boxes full to the rim with presents and supplies. The special goodies and whatnots that family sent to the ones they loved. And the Christmas cards! Many of my comrades taped the sweet nothings on their bunks, on the walls- I was surrounded and at this point I felt under attack by the colorful paper. I needed some air before the mail came.
“Where you goin’ Murphy?”
“Out,” was my curt response. I couldn’t handle another smile, another cheerful countenance.
“What’s his problem?” A new guy asked.
I didn’t care what they said about me. Everyone knew by now that I was an orphan. It was a very true fact that I wouldn’t be receiving anything from anyone on birthdays and holidays. To me it didn’t matter, which is why I joined the army. They would become my family, my job became would be my friend.
I messed around outside long enough to miss the shouts for joy and the happy glee that normally surrounded the bunk. I wasn’t sure why it bothered me so much this year. Never before had I cared if I received anything or not. Maybe I was getting old like Leroy my bunkmate said. A light chuckle lifted my lips. Older, I was barely twenty-seven. Maybe my sour face and deep scowl aged me. At least that was the word around the base.
I thought it was safe now so I headed back. As I walked up to my bunk I saw an envelope on my bed. My heart dove into my stomach. Of all the rotten things of these men to do, my unit, my team- to tease me in my most vulnerable place.
“Is this some kind of joke,” I yelled as I looked around to see who was laughing.
“No joke Murphy. You actually got a card.”
“Oh really, Leroy how is that possible?” My voice was laced with sarcasm, but it didn’t reciprocate the reaction I wanted. Leroy just grinned at me.
“Well Scrooge is just going to have to open it and see isn’t he.” Leroy walked away at that.
I sat on my bunk and cradled the envelope like a precious baby. I was afraid to open it- to damage its perfect neatness, but my curiosity got the best of me. I gently stuck my thumb under the sticky label and began to peel it from its sturdy seal. Once open I exhaled and slowly pulled out the Christmas card. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The picture was of a child sitting on his father’s uniformed lap. They were laughing. I took a breath and then opened the card. It was a child’s writing.
Hello Charles Murphy,
My name is Joshua. You may not know me, but my dad wrote about you all the time in his letters. He said you were a good soldier and that you kept us Americans safe from harm by the great work you do. You even saved my dad’s life when you were under attack.
My dad is still recovering, but he’s home with us this Christmas. I want to thank you. My dad says he always saw you as a little brother, so that makes you family.
Maybe when you get to come home you can come over for dinner and talk about nothing as my dad always says you did. Well I gotta go, I hope your Christmas is as wonderful as mine is.
Please write back.
The tears were pouring from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. Across the sea of bitterness I had been adopted by a man and his family. Saving a man’s life was a part of the job, but in this case the task saved me too. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve as I stood. It was my turn to perform the act I had witnessed again and again. I taped my card proudly on my bunk for all to see. I basked in the joy over the simple paper that changed my life on a lonely December day.
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