Thursday, December 4, 2008

A White Christmas

This is a story that was published in the Dec 05 New Era. Being its Christmas time I decided to add it. Left is our last family picture, taken a little before the story below. I'm the little boy on the left standing in front.

Wood for Widows

White Christmases were always the best! Christmas Eve I would sit at the window, watching the streetlight, hoping to see flakes of snow falling. We didn’t often have snow for Christmas but it was bitter cold and it was supposed to snow. I stayed up watching for snow until my mother insisted I go to bed. I prayed that night, hoping that morning would find the ground covered with fresh fallen snow.

On Christmas morning I woke early. To my joy, the Christmas tree was surrounded with presents. The excitement gathering around the Christmas tree and discovering what treasures waited inside the wrapping paper made up for still not having snow. As my dad passed out the presents, I stacked mine in front of me. I was eager to see if my pile of presents was larger than my siblings. Especially my older brother Ron, he seemed to always get more and nicer presents than me. I understood he had polio when he was two, leaving him crippled in both legs. It seemed my parents were always nicer to him, though other kids often picked on him.

We were quite poor and most Christmases were meager. My mother had asked Ron before Christmas if he was interested in a racecar set. He had told her, no, he wanted something else. When she asked me I had said “yes” trying not to sound too eager. It had worked. I had gotten the racecar set along with some of the other things I wanted.

We lived on a farm and always had chores to do. My father left to do his chores right after we opened our gifts. It was my job to feed and water the chickens. I was praying that my mom wouldn’t make me stop playing with the racecar set long enough to do my chores. When my dad returned he told me that he had done our chores for us including feeding and watering the chickens. I was excited, I could spend the entire day in the nice warm house playing with my new racecar set. He then said something to my mother about Blanche (an elderly widow down the street) who was out looking for firewood. Ron and I went quickly back to playing with our toys. That was my dad, always looking out for others. It seemed like the entire town depended on him to do things for them. Anytime they needed their car looked at, equipment welded, or a car pulled out of a mud hole, they came to my dad. Blanche wouldn’t come to my dad. She felt he was too busy. Besides, he had been in the hospital to have his spleen removed a few weeks before. His blood wasn’t clotting properly and the doctors had removed his spleen hoping it would help.

The next thing I knew my father was asking us boys if we wanted to go get some wood with him. I couldn’t believe it, on Christmas? I knew that wood was Blanche’s only way of staying warm and cooking. But couldn’t someone else get Blanche firewood, or at least couldn’t we just take her a little off our woodpile? Or wait until tomorrow, surely she had enough wood to last until then. But no! He wanted to go into the woods and get a whole truckload. I complained but it didn’t do any good. We were expected to go. So much for spending the day playing with my new racecar set.

We bundled up well and headed for the woods. At least it was warm in the cab of the truck, but soon we would be out in the cold loading the truck with wood, which happened all too soon. My dad was very good at getting his boys to help him. We each had our job, my dad would run the chain saw and cut the wood. Grant my oldest brother, would split the wood. I would load and my next oldest brother Ron, being crippled, would sit in the back of the truck and stack the wood. My dad was always good at making Ron part of whatever we did and feel important and needed. Eager to get back to our toys we all worked hard. He had cut a big tree and we almost had it loaded. I thought it was plenty, but my dad cut into another big tree. This is going to take forever, I thought, “I’m cold and tired and want to play with my toys and he is cutting down another tree.” We finally got it all split and loaded. At last we were headed home. It was nice to be back in the warmth of the cab of the truck again. All we had to do was unload the wood and then I could go back to my racecar set.

We backed up to Blanche’s house and started unloading the wood. I couldn’t believe it! There wasn’t of sliver a wood to be found anywhere in her yard. The only thing she had left to burn was her house itself. I was worried about losing time playing with my racecar set, while she was worried about freezing. As we were unloading the wood she came out of her house. My dad looked up and said “Merry Christmas.” She started crying, and my dad got down from the truck to console her. I couldn’t fight back a few tears myself. I tried hard not to let it show, but then I noticed a tear in my brother’s eye too. My presents didn’t mean anything to me now. The fact that I was able to help keep someone from freezing on Christmas day meant much more to me than all the toys in the world.

That night it snowed. My mother said she was glad that we had gotten Blanche firewood. I was glad too, really glad. Never will I forget the lesson and spirit of truly giving to others. But that wasn’t the only lesson that we learned that year. This act of kindness on my dad’s part would have an influence that would not be realized for years to come.

The next Christmas would not be so happy, we sat around solemn faced, after opening our presents. Finally Ron said, “lets go get wood”. Nothing more needed to be said. We all got our coats, hats and gloves and headed out the door. Again we were getting wood for a widow. But this time it was our mother. It wasn’t that we needed the wood, it was something deeper. Two weeks before Christmas my dad died on my oldest brother’s 16th birthday. He left seven children to be raised by my mother. But my dad had taught us to work. So my brothers and I would make sure that we had wood for the next year and each year after that.

I suppose that because of that one act of kindness, and the lessons that he had taught his boys, he assured that his widowed wife would never go without wood. We not only got wood for our mother but often we would get it for other widows. Often on Christmas day after we had opened our presents my brothers and I would go out after wood for one of the widows. Though it was never spoken openly between us, we were all doing it in memory of our father.

Times have changed and most people don’t use firewood to stay warm. So our tradition of getting firewood has died. There are few people in our society that are in danger of freezing on Christmas day but there are many who need warmed on the inside.


Archer StrongBow said...

This is an incredible story, and brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It really does embody the true spirits of compassion and kindness that I wish could be a far larger part of our winter holiday mindset. Thanks for sharing this with me and the world, and thanks to your dad for his part in helping to make the world a better place through the lessons he taught to you and your siblings.

Jaime Lynne said...

What an amazing story! This is something I could picture President Monson sharing. What a moral! Thanks for sharing.

Photography By Jo said...

I love love love this story. I need ideas on what to do this year HELP!