Gina sighed. She looked at the lights beginning to twinkle. Red, yellow, and green hung around the homeless shelter and made her lonely for the nice neighborhood where she used to live.
It was almost Christmas and her life was all wrong. First, her dad died. He was never sick, but his heart gave out when he was playing basketball with her uncles.
Things got worse. Her mom lost her job. She used up all the savings to pay the rent and buy food. She got unemployment payments but they never stretched far enough to pay the bills. To make some money, her mom held a big yard sale and sold everything they didn’t need to live. She forgot that the special lights were in the Christmas boxes she put out to let people rummage. “I’m so sorry,” she told Gina.
They ended up losing the house and went to the shelter until they could save enough money to rent a new place. Landlords always wanted a deposit along with the first and last months rent, and the utility companies wanted money upfront.
Gina thought of her own special Christmas lights that she made year by year. She fastened tiny angels with gossamer wings and pink dresses, gingerbread houses made of cellophane and candy decorations, stars, wreaths, bells, and ginger people, each one with a teensy light shining inside.
Every year, Gina strung the lights in the front room using hooks to hang them across the ceiling, string after string. In the dark, she basked in the glow of glorious flashes cascading around the living room.
She added new strings of light and new little glowing objects each year. All her friends came to see her Christmas display. “I don’t know how you do it, Gina,” they said. Now they were gone and she lived somewhere else.
“Let’s go shopping, Gina,” mom said. We can find something for Christmas since I don’t have to pay rent anymore. They piled into the car they had lived in for a couple of weeks before finding out about the shelter. “There is a big church sale we can go to today.”
On the way to the church, they saw a marvelous sight. A huge star twinkled over an old barn. “Look, Mom,” Gina exclaimed. “It is so beautiful. Let’s go see. Please!”
They drove up the long driveway and saw a lot of cars and people milling about. “It’s a barn sale,” Gina said. They went inside.
Gina poked through some boxes of Christmas decorations. Her very own lights peeked out the side of the box. It only took her a minute to dig them all out. “How much?” she asked the man with blue eyes and a white suit.
“For you, little darling, they are free.” Take them all.”
Later at dinner at the shelter, she talked about the barn sale and her lights. Everyone looked puzzled. “Where did you say the barn was?” they asked. “There is no barn there. It is a big empty lot. You must be mistaken.”
The next day, Gina and her mom returned to the spot. Indeed, it was an empty lot. “I know we went to a barn sale here,” mom said. “You saw it too, didn’t you Gina?”
They strung the lights in rows across the shelter’s dining room ceiling with the help of another family with children. It started snowing outside. They all rushed to the window, then ran outside and tried to catch snow on their tongues.
Gina heard a shout. She looked in the direction it came from and saw the man with the blue eyes and white suit. “Thank you so much,” she said. “I am so happy to see you again.”
“Who are you talking to.” asked one of the children. “Nobody is there. Hey everybody, Gina’s talking to herself.”
A light gleamed in the darkness, bigger than any star. “Look, Mom,” Gina exclaimed. “It’s the star shining in the East, the best Christmas light of them all.”
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