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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)

TITLE: The Christmas Circle
By Tim Manzer


Each man had traveled over icy, snow-covered roads to get to this small Christmas party. The summons to this party was limited to a select group of broken lives. These men had pains, scars, sorrows and countless losses that became an austere invitation to this holiday celebration.

Several of the men had lost wives, friends, homes, families and jobs. They knew the feel of cold cement in a gray painted holding cell. The 12 steps were not just helpful but a source of life and hope.

There was no strong drink at this party just plenty of black coffee, festive cookies, spinach dip, Christmas candy, venison sausage, spicy cheese, crackers, “spirit free” punch, shrimp and cocktail sauce. Laughter was filling every corner of the brightly decorated room. It was the rich, full laughter of the redeemed and forgiven.

As the men talked it became apparent that the circle was not complete. One soul was missing. A few say that they tried to call him but never received an answer to their pleas. A few men had heard that he was struggling. It was very apparent that the pains of the holiday season had broken a brother’s spirit. It had been over two weeks since any news had been heard from our friend and we knew that we needed to either intervene or plan his funeral service.

What were we to do? We could change the topic! We could eat the frosted cookies and tell jokes and hope everything was just fine.

Then the suggestion was stated; let’s go get him! Not everyone was needed for the yuletide intervention. Volunteers stepped forward to be part of the task force. Six were selected for the loving home invasion. The remaining members of the group prayed over us and we left on our snowy undertaking.

We knocked on the door of his ancient old down-town boarding house. The old wooden door was unlocked so I opened the heavy frame and begun to yell out his name. After a long time of persistent shouting we heard a faint response from a dark bedroom in the dusty basement. That was our invitation to enter and head straight for his tiny rented room.

The cheap door to his bedroom looked like it had been busted down a few times before this fateful evening. As I stepped into the grubby room all my four senses came under torment. My eyes began to water and my nose started to beg for mercy. The room was filled with the smells of dirty clothes, old beer cans, empty vodka bottles, body odor, vomit, sweat and stale food.

My friend rolled out of his bed and bundled himself into a shaking, weeping ball of misery and despair. The shame was as thick as the odors in the reeking room. I got down on my knees and began to whisper hope into his ear.

I said every helpful thought that spilled into my mind. “We Love You!” “God loves you!” “There is hope!” “Let us help you!” “Let us find you a room in detox.” On and on I talked to my humbled companion. He reached out to me and wrapped his arms around me and my clean Christmas party clothes. He was ready for help!

From that moment on the events of the evening began to swirl together. There were phone calls to a Detox center. The good news was a bed was open. Some guys helped our friend get cleaned up and packed. Others cleaned up the room. Plastic bags of stale food, empty beer cans and pizza boxes were taken to the garbage cans. Dirty clothes were picked up. A vacuum did a quick run over the grimy carpet. We traveled through a late night fast food restaurant. A double cheeseburger and a hot coffee are always needed before checking oneself into Detox. Then off to Detox, seven happy guys sitting in a cold winter waiting room at one o’clock A.M.

The circle was restored.

Very early in the morning I came home to a quiet home and a warm bed. I tried to quietly crawl under the covers but failed to be stealth in my attempt to go to slumber. My wife awoke about half way through her winter night’s sleep and asked how I enjoyed the Christmas party? I told her that it started like a party and turned into the church at its best.

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This article has been read 585 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Wistrom12/13/07
I feel like I don't need to read any further. You touched my heart and you helped usher Christmas in for me, please keep writing and telling these stories.
Jan Ross12/16/07
What a beautiful spirit behind this story! You captured the essence of the Body -- the Church! A little sprucing up with your grammar and you've got a powerful story that needs to be shared. Christmas blessings! :)
Betty Castleberry12/16/07
Your descriptions of the room, inclduing the foul odors was wonderful. Others have mentioned some grammar issues. Thankfully, they have easy fixes. Loved the heart in this story. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/16/07
First of all, that spread sounds delicious! I'd love to load up my plate at that party!

The only thing that threw me a little was that you didn't introduce yourself as narrator until well into the 3rd or 4th paragraph...it started out in 3rd person, and then the "we" came and I had to do a few mental gymnastics.

The story itself? Excellent!
JoAnne Potter12/18/07
Great sense of the real identity of the church. Something about the verbs made me feel outside the story rather than in the middle of it, though. Maybe it needs the immediacy that active, rather than passive, verbs bring. Great heart.