Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Carols/Carolling (10/02/08)
TITLE: Tina's Blessing Carol
By Sandra Fischer
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Momma dropped my hand long enough to scavenge some coins from her purse and drop them in the kettle. “Bless you, ma’am,” Santa said, as I tugged Momma’s sleeve in protest.
“Momma! Why are you giving money away? We won’t have enough for our own Christmas.”
Momma stooped down to ten-year-old stature, her blue eyes riveting mine in that “teachable moment” stare. “Christmas is about blessing, child. God blessed us with the gift of His son and we’re to bless others by sharing what we have that others don‘t. Everyone has a blessing to share.”
I tucked the message back in my mind, thinking I would understand it all when I grew up, but Tina Carver was to prove me wrong. Tina was in my class at school and her family was on the charity list. Her father had hopped a freight to parts unknown when he lost his job, leaving her, her mother and two brothers to scrape by any way they could. They lived in an abandoned storefront near the tracks, its shattered windows covered by cardboard.
Some of the kids made fun of Tina. She wore her brother’s hand-me-down coats and trousers to school, while most of us girls wore dresses and leggings. Most times her clothes and hands were smudged with coal dust from picking up pieces along the tracks to feed their potbelly stove.
Momma’s “compassion” lesson began to take root, so I donned a pair of my brother’s old pants and wore them to school to support Tina. The kids didn’t laugh, but Tina did. I knew then I’d found a new friend, so I offered to share lunch with her.
“I don’t have anything to give you.”
“Don’t have to. It’s a blessing. God blessed me with extra cornmeal mush, so I could share.” But, I wondered - what blessing did Tina have to share?
We walked home together and, as I helped Tina pick up coal and tuck the pieces into an old knapsack, I began humming a Christmas carol. Suddenly, the voice of an angel burst forth, singing the words in perfect soprano. I was dumbstruck.
“Tina! Where did you learn to sing like that?”
Tina stopped. “Sorry. Never sung around nobody but my mom. Didn’t mean to hurt your ears.”
“My ears are fine and so is your voice - it’s wonderful! Tina, you must sing in the school Christmas program.”
“Uh. . .I don’t have a dress to wear.”
“No problem. I have one I outgrew. It’s just your size.”
The Christmas program was the same every year - classes crowded onto the gym stage and sang carols chosen by the music teacher, Miss Morgan. Parents applauded politely to the cacophony of voices until the final carol, “Silent Night“, brought relief. That year, however, was different, very different.
Miss Morgan showed up with laryngitis, so Principal Hanley introduced the songs and Mr. Shricker, the janitor, left a window open to air out the gym and cold moisture threw the piano out of tune.
“We’ll just have to sing acapella,“ Miss Morgan whispered, as she ushered the first class onto the stage.
“I thought we were thinging ‘Away in the Manger’”, Willie Morgan, a first grader, lisped.
“We are, Willie, but we need someone to start us.”
Tina stood beside me behind the curtain as we waited our turn. I pushed her onto the stage. “Go!”
A hush fell over the room as everyone stared.
“Tina?” Miss Morgan rasped in surprise.
Tina fumbled with the lace trim on my hand-me-down dress and looked out over the audience; her eyes met those of a woman who smiled and nodded. Tina took a deep breath. The next sound came straight from heaven - Tina’s melodic voice swept through the gym, singing the carol as we had never heard it sung - “Away in a Manger. . .” - a humble message from a humble messenger in perfect pitch, resonating sweet tones of hope to hungry souls.
Tina’s gift proved Momma right - everyone does have a blessing to share.
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