Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)
TITLE: A TRUE CHRISTMAS GIFT
By Debbie Roome
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
Soft snow flakes swirl around the car as I pull up to the curb. It’s Christmas Eve, probably the busiest day of my year and still so much to do. Some last minute shopping, a couple of extra gifts in case of drop in guests and I promised the children we would bake cookies.
So what am I doing delivering Christmas dinners to the needy? The pastor asked for volunteers at church last Sunday morning. “We need a group of people who can distribute Christmas meals to folk in the community.” He paused, leaning over the pulpit. “This is a ministry. In some ways, you’ll be more blessed than they are. I urge you to respond and make a difference.” It isn’t the sort of thing I normally do, but as I’d considered my comfortable life, my caring husband and two wonderful children, my hand had gone up.
Mr Coburn is last on my list. A widower, living on his own the note informs me. Snow flurries whirl round me as I knock at his door. I’m anxious to hand over the box and get back to my real life. Back to the bustling malls and carols, back to the tinsel and twinkling lights.
Mr Coburn is a small shrunken figure. A goblin with baggy pants and a torso bundled into a thick, grey jumper. A woolen hat engulfs his head, leaving a parchment face with muddy eyes peering out at me. He looks to be in his late seventies or early eighties.
“Please come in.” he pulls the door wide open and steps back as I explain who I am. One of the old school I think. A true gentleman. “My kitchen’s this way.” He leads the way down a short passage. The house is cold and I guess he’s dressed warmly to try and cut back on power bills.
I place the box on the table and offer to help him unpack it. “That would be very kind of you. Can I offer you some coffee?” I decline thinking of the time. The malls are frantic and I have to get the extra gifts and…I pull my mind back to Mr Coburn. The food is packed in foil containers with heating instructions pasted on top. Turkey, vegetables, gravy, plum pudding, sauce. A cracker, party hat and gift are included. Mr Coburn chuckles as I pull out the cracker. “Not much use to try and pull a cracker with yourself is it?” However, he falls silent for a moment as I pull the gift out. He places veined hands on the table top to try and stop the trembles that plague them.
“My wife died six years ago and since then I haven't celebrated Christmas. She would cook a wonderful meal and together we would set up the tree and decorations. We couldn’t have children so it was just the two of us.” He paused. “I haven’t had a Christmas gift since she died. Christmas is just another day to me now.”
Suddenly my shopping doesn’t seem quite so important. In fact my plans for the afternoon seem shallow and insignificant compared to the pain I have just glimpsed. I sit down at the table and this time, accept the coffee. We speak for an hour of his wife and their years together. Of his job as a salesman. Of how Christmas used to be a special time for him. I look deep into his eyes as he speaks of his loneliness and fears. Then I tell him of my family, of my two daughters and caring husband. Of how the pastor had encouraged us to get involved with delivering the meals. Of the selfishness I’ve just discovered in my heart. Finally, we exchange phone numbers and I arrange to fetch him the next morning.
It’s snowing hard as I leave, the lacy sheets smudging the golden street lights into a winter wonder land. It’s going to be a beautiful, white Christmas. A Christmas where we will embrace a new friend and understand a little more of its true meaning.
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