ONE GIFT

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 Sitting on a rise of ground in a small valley hidden in the mountainous Summers County, amid the barren branches of the Dogwood, stands a white worn wooden building known to those as the Lost Home. Officially, it bears the name, The Summers County Children’s Orphanage. Being quite a mouthful for the local folk, it is simply called the “Lost Home”. Here the abandoned, the unwanted, unloved or parentless youth are placed until they reach the age where they can care for themselves. Tucked away in the hills, they the neglected, like the Lost Home itself, are out of the view of the more fortunate of society. As worn as the Lost Home may be and as forlorn as the children may appear, this is the place where their childhood memories are born and from which their adulthood finds its foundation. The responsibility of this growth falls to the caretakers of the Lost Home, Mr. and Mrs. James Ulear, better known to the children as Ma and Mr. Jim.

A blanket of snow had fallen throughout the day giving all that could be seen a presence of purity. As if Mother Nature had given her blessing upon the coming event with the cleansing whiteness of the snow covering the land. With the peaceful contrast of black and white, the crispness of clarity between the two, it was as Mr. Jim had remarked earlier, a picture perfect post card day. That is as it should have been for this was the day before Christmas.

Christmas, a time of joyful bliss to fill the hearts and minds of children everywhere. A special day which lives long in the imagination of children filling them with the hope of love and happiness. A day given to the rewards of good behavior, that magical visit of Saint Nicholas who fills the desires of hearts in want. A moment to live in the freedom of good will towards men. A day set aside from sorrows and worry in exchange for the blessing of giving and receiving, of loving and forgiving and the celebration of sharing.

Summers County, not being of the more affluent places gives little more than to one’s need. For the folks who live there it is all they can muster to care for their own, and few, if any, crumbs were passed to the Lost Home. Ma and Mr. Jim being a good-hearted couple filled with empathy and compassion for their twelve wards, began early in the year to assure this special day, Christmas, would be filled with joy.

Mr. Jim would go out through the county collecting the discarded, old or broken toys, out grown clothes and this and that and the other. For whatever he could obtain, he expressed deep gratitude and assured the giver that God would bless. Mr. Jim being handy, as keeper for the Lost Home required, made various things, toys and furniture, out of the wood he could find. In order to maintain the magic and surprise, he’d work late and store the gifts in the old milk barn behind the house.

Shortly before Christmas Eve would pass into Christmas morning, Mr. Jim was busy in the old milk barn. He was making last-minute preparations before Old Saint Nick’s visit. The wind had picked up and whipped down from the mountains to sing an eerie song as it passed through the branches of the Dogwood trees. Mr. Jim jumped when he heard a loud snap from outside. As he turned to look towards the direction of the sound, a branch came crashing through the window knocking over the coal oil lamp. A fire quickly spread as the oil spilled out from the lamp. Unable to put the fire out Mr. Jim ran to the house to summon all the help who were capable. They all formed a line stretching from the well to the old milk barn with buckets, pitchers and anything that would hold water. The wood was old and dry and quickly was consumed by the fire. Mr. Jim could see their attempt to put the fire out was futile. The fire raged on with a brilliant red glow beneath the midnight sky. In short time the walls collapsed and the barn was but a large bon fire. As the fire burned down, the flames slowly disappeared leaving bellows of smoke where once stood the old milk barn housing the hopes and dreams of Ma and Mr. Jim’s children. Ma and Mr. Jim filed the children back into the Lost Home. They, being filled with the excitement of the night, were unknowing that all of Santa’s treats had drifted into the cold night air above the dying embers of the old milk barn.

As the heart-broken couple lay down to sleep, Ma and Mr. Jim heard a knocking on the front door to the Lost Home. Mr. Jim got up putting on his robe and went to answer the door. There upon the stoop an elderly fellow dressed in a long reddish colored coat waited. Hidden in a bush of white whiskers and a wind-chapped face the elderly fellow looked into the weary eyes of Mr. Jim.

“Mighty cold night,” he rasped. “Saw a bright light in the sky from away off. Made me think a warm place would be this way. Mighty cold night isn’t it? Can I stay here?”

Mr. Jim motioned the old fellow in and explained the events of the evening. Mr. Jim then offered the old fellow the couch beside the Christmas Tree for him to sleep. With a hearty show of gratitude the old fellow wrapped himself beneath a blanket and fell asleep.

As the sun peaked out from behind the eastern mountains, long shadows began to grow across the snow tinted with the red color of the rising sun. The tracks of many footprints were reveled around where the old mike barn once stood. A rooster somewhere inside the chicken coop crowed alerting all of nature the birth of a new day. Lazy wisps of smoke over the old milk barn rose into the air. The valley was filled with the smell of wood smoke giving a feeling of warmth on this cold December morning. Squirrels began to dance amongst the branches of the Dogwood Trees and the morning quickly woke to a brand new day.

Inside the Lost Home children began to stir and come down the stairs to harvest the treasure of Christmas. Their commotion awakened Ma and Mr. Jim who followed behind with uncertain heart. The children began to curiously gather around the Christmas Tree. A little girl gleefully shouted, “It’s Santa Clause! Santa Clause is sleeping on the couch!”

The old fellow quickly arose embarrassed by being unaware of so many eyes looking at him.

“Santa Clause! What did you bring us? Where are our gifts?” An anxious boy asked.

Mr. Jim stepped forward to rescue the old fellow but was halted when the old fellow raised his hand to command the attention of all in the room.

“I have your gift.” The old fellow began. “I have a gift for each of you my children. I have it here in my heart. Some gifts are for today. You have them and tomorrow they are gone. Then some gifts are for tomorrow. When tomorrow comes they are gone. But one gift is for life. It is life, and it will last forever. Some can only see today. They want only the gifts that today can bring. Their hope soon will fall victim to yesterday and is lost. Some gifts are promised for tomorrow but tomorrow never comes and there hope dies. All the gifts I brought you last Christmas where are they now? Where will they be in the years too come? What if next Christmas never comes? What good is your hope for it? There is one gift that never fails. Never is lost. Will always be yours. So great is this gift you can give it away and still have it. All you have to do is take it. I have it for you now this Christmas, here now for each of you.”

As the old fellow reached inside his coat all eyes brightened with excitement. From inside his coat he pulled out a piece of paper and laid it face down upon the table.

“There it is children, written on that piece of paper. When I leave I want the youngest of you to the oldest too read it. If you want the greatest gift, the One Gift, then take it.” The old fellow then got up and bowed to Ma and Mr. Jim and left.

I don’t know what all the children did with what was written upon that piece of paper. I know for a while they thought Santa Clause had given it to them. Some I am sure felt disappointed and forgot about it. Others may have but in later years returned to it. For others, they placed it where the old fellow had kept it, in their hearts. It has been as he said other gifts have passed away and tomorrow is always just beyond reach. No other gift they received has given them all that they need, but His gift has. They have given it away to all who would take it and still have it just as the old fellow promised. Yes His gift was true, perhaps the only truth there will ever be. For on that paper was written, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life.”

It has been many, many Christmas’ sense that day at the Lost Home. When I look at the greatness of the universe and the small speck earth is, I feel earth is like the Lost Home. Filled with unwanted, unloved, un-cared for parentless people with no hope for their eternal lives. I believe God the Father looked down that first snowy Christmas morn and sent His son Jesus who gave that One Gift, the gift of life, and all we have to do is take it.

  Copyright: 2001 Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College

 

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