By Kimberly Henrie
This was our first Colorado winter and we were excited about our first Christmas in our new home. We had just moved from the desert and my daughters, who were six and nine, had only seen a real winter once before in their lives. They were so little, they didn’t remember it. It was Christmas Eve. The girls and I were out and about, running holiday errands. We delivered treats to some of our friends and made a last minute trip to Kmart.
My youngest daughter, Megan, was distracted by a simple jewelry box. You’ve probably seen
them, the little square box with a dancer inside that twirls around when you open the box while sweet ballerina music plays. Megan and her big sister Elizabeth were enchanted. They each wanted to take one home. I just smiled and said, “Not tonight. Tomorrow is Christmas; let’s see what Santa Claus will bring.”
I, like thousands of other parents over the years, had given my children the gift of believing in Santa Claus. I’d spent hours of their young lives telling them the stories, wrapping “Santa’s gifts” in different colored paper and leaving milk and cookies. Among my favorite childhood memories that I share with them were those annual movies, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. I still love them!
I would really like to have sneaked those gifts into the shopping cart that Christmas Eve. The jewelry boxes weren’t very expensive, but with our move to a new home that year, we were on a budget, and Christmas spending was done. Though I yearned for the day when we could afford such simple gifts, I was thankful to God for how far we had come. You see, there were Christmases past that the girls and I relied on the kindness of others. When Megan was born, we were living on public assistance, in an old trailer in a very small town on the prairies of the Midwest. We had struggled to make our lives better since then, and in answer to my prayers, my husband, Randy, came into our lives when the girls were four and seven years old. Yes, though times were frugal, life had become so much richer for us. There was a great deal to be thankful for.
We left the store that night without the jewelry boxes. Our errands were just about done. One last stop for gas on the way home, and then it would be time to tuck the girls in for the night, while Randy and I played Santa Claus. It was dark at the gas station at about eight-thirty. As I got out of the car to begin fueling, I was careful to be aware of my surroundings. You can imagine
how nervous I was as a beat-up old truck pulled into the gas station right up next to my car and a gruff-looking man rolled down his window and beckoned me over. With a glance at the girls to make sure they were snug in the car with windows rolled up, I cautiously approached the truck. The man looked like he had been working hard in filthy conditions all day and had not had a chance to bathe. I expected a question about where to find a hot meal or a warm bed and was prepared to direct him to our church or the police station. Imagine my surprise as the man held up two jewelry boxes almost exactly like the ones we had seen at the store! “Ma’am, I won these two jewelry boxes at the movie theater,” he said, “and I noticed you had two little girls. I don’t have anyone to give them to and was wondering if your girls might like them.”
I was speechless as I stood there, face-to-face with Santa Claus. Somehow I stuttered my way through
thanks and gratitude, and assured him that the girls would be delighted to have the gifts he offered. I watched as he disappeared into the night – Santa Claus in an old, beat-up truck.
It has been four years since that night, and it still
brings a tear to my eye as I tell the story. Who was that man? I don’t know. I’ve never seen him again, but I do believe that God used him that night to answer my simple prayer. He opened my eyes to the true Santa Claus – the love of Christ shining through us to all the world.
Copyright 2002, Kimberly Henrie. All Rights Reserved.
Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul. Also included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Cheer.