By: Elizabeth English
Herman and I finally locked our store and dragged ourselves home. It was 11 p.m. Christmas Eve. We’d sold almost all of our toys; and all of the layaway, except one package, had been picked up. But the person who had put a dollar down on that package never appeared.
Early Christmas morning our 12 year old son, Tom, Herman and I were out under the tree opening up gifts. But there was something humdrum about this Christmas. Tom was grown up, and I missed his childish exuberance of past years. As soon as breakfast was over, he left to visit friends and Herman disappeared into the bedroom, mumbling, “I’m going back to sleep.”
So there I was alone. It was nearly 9 a.m. Sleet mixed with snow cut the air outside. “Sure glad I don’t have to go out on a day like today,” I thought to myself. And then it began—something I’d never experienced before. A strange, persistent urge. “Go to the store,” it seemed to say. “That’s crazy,” I said to myself, “no one opens shop on Christmas day.” For an hour I fought that strange feeling. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I got dressed. I put on my wool coat, placed my hat on my head, then my galoshes, scarf and gloves. Once outside, the wind cut right through me and sleet stung my cheeks. I felt ridiculous. I had no business being out in the bitter chill.
There was the store just ahead. “But, what in the world?” I wondered. In front of the store stood two little boys—huddled together, poorly dressed, and half frozen. One was about nine, the other six.
“Here she comes!” yelled the older one. “See, I told you she would come,” he said. The younger one’s face was wet with tears, but when he saw me his eyes opened wide and his sobbing stopped.
“What are you two children doing out here?” I scolded, hurrying them into the store.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” replied the older. “My little brother Jimmy didn’t get any Christmas. We want to buy some skates. That’s what he wants.”
I looked at the three dollars in his hand and at their expectant faces. Then I looked around the store. “I’m sorry” I said, “but we have no ska….” Then my eye caught sight of the layaway shelf with its lone package. Could it be? I walked over and unwrapped the package. Miracles of miracles, there was a pair of skates!
Jimmy reached for them. “Lord,” I said silently, “let them be his size.” And miracle added upon miracle. They were his size. When the older boy finished tying the laces and saw that the skates fit perfectly, he stood up and presented the dollars to me.
“No, I’m not going to take your money,” I told him. “I want you to have these skates and use your money to get some gloves for your hands.” What I saw in Jimmy’s eyes was like a blessing. It was pure joy, and it was beautiful. My low spirits rose.
As I locked the door, I turned to the older brother and said, “How lucky that I happened to come along when I did. How did you boys know I would come?”
I wasn’t prepared for his reply. His gaze was steady, and he answered me softly. “I knew you would come. I asked Jesus to send you.”
The tingles in my spine weren’t from the cold. I knew God had planned this. As we waved good-bye, I returned home to a brighter Christmas than I had left.