Charity should begin at home, but should not stay there. ~ Philip Brooks
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ Anonymous
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
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THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE
He steps back to look over his work. He’s been at it for hours; a placement here, a tweaking there. It’s not the first time he’s undertaken this task. He’s been doing it for years, ever since he was a little boy. That’s over three quarters of a century now. But as he steps back, he says under his breath, “This is the last one. This is the last Christmas tree.”
He’s not terminally ill. It’s not that he won’t be capable next year. It’s just that, the old body needs some help now and then. He finds it a struggle to keep the house. Tending to the yard during the warmer months wasn’t too bad. He could take all day if he wanted to mow the lawn and weeding or tending to flower beds could be stretched over the week. But it’s winter now. Shovelling snow wipes him out. He also knows that if he were to slip and fall that it would probably incapacitate him. So, he’ll be moving. Moving to a small room in a centre full of folks just like him. A room much too small to put up a Christmas tree.
He puts on his coat and steps out onto his front porch. He has some festive garland in his hand. They placed a for sale sign on his front yard yesterday. He knows it’s necessary if the house is to sell, but the sight of it depresses him. Perhaps if he decorates it up a bit it won’t be so bad. As he starts wrapping the garland around the post, a voice behind him asks, “Whatcha doin’, mister?” He turns around to see the young lad from a few doors down. He can never seem to remember the lad’s name, but has hosted many a chat with him while working in his yard over the summer. “I’m just decorating this sign,” he answers.
The lad picks up an end of the garland and starts walking around the post of the sign while he guides it and spaces it so that when it’s done, the post looks like a candy cane. All this was done with no instruction from him. It’s almost like the young lad just sensed what to do. “For sale,” the lad reads. “Whatcha selling?” the lad asks. “I’m selling my house,” he replies. “Why you selling your house, mister?” asks the lad. “It’s too hard for me to shovel snow. It’s time for someone younger to live here who can take care of things,” he answers. “Where ya moving to, mister?” asks the lad. “I’m moving across town to a seniors complex,” he tells him.
The young lad gets kind of glassy-eyed. Despite never remembering his name, he knows he’s going to miss the young lad as well. He’s going to miss the hundreds of questions during the boy’s visits. He’s going to miss the companionship while tending to his yard in the warmer months. He’s going to miss the wondrous and quizzical chatter that always accompanied a cold glass of soda on a hot day, or a mug of hot chocolate on the cold ones. He’s also going to miss being the personal messenger to Santa for the young lad. He can’t even remember the story he told the boy that convinced him that he was Santa’s mailman, but for the past four years, he’s taken the lad’s letter and fulfilled the requests within it. I guess he’d better come up with a new story so that the responsibility can be passed back to his mom. But that can wait until after Christmas. Just as he’s decorated his last tree, he wants to be Santa’s helper one last time.
The next morning, he awakens to another fresh blanket of snow. It looks like a heavy blanket this time. He finishes his morning coffee and puts on boots, coat and gloves so as to prepare for the overwhelming task of clearing his walk and driveway. As he steps out on the front porch, he’s stunned. Someone has cleared all of the snow. He looks up and down the street. Others are out shoveling, but none look his way. He’s thankful, but wonders who cleared it all for him. A few days later, his walks are cleaned after another hefty snow fall. And again there’s no sign of who might be responsible.
Later that week, the young lad comes over for a visit. He puts the kettle on to make hot chocolate while the young lad chatters up a storm about everything from what’s going on at school, to how mean his little sister is. Eventually, the young lad has to go home for
supper. As he’s heading out the door, he stops and turns. “I almost forgot, mister, I finished my letter last night. Can you give it to Santa for me?” the lad asks. He nods and smiles as he closes the door behind him.
As he opens the letter, he has to sit down as he’s overcome with emotion. The letter reads, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas this year is for mister to stay. If you can make him stay, I’ll keep cleaning his snow away. Love, Tommy”
No one can possibly imagine how much a simple act of shoveling someone’s snow can impact another’s life. If you have a good neighbour who, for whatever reason, struggles with cleaning their walks when it snows, be a secret snow angel. Shovel their walk along with your own. You’ll feel good knowing you’ve helped them out and maybe even helped them avoid their last Christmas tree.