Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

By J.J. Ray

Perhaps this time of year more than most provoke long lost memories of Christmases past. Though I did not participate in “Black Friday,” my wife did punish me severely the day after by going to Walmart. She shopped and I chose the book department. Scanning the best sellers, I noticed a very large thin book staring up at me from the bottom shelf. It was an illustrated “The Night before Christmas” originally penned as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and authored by Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston Jr. depending on whom you believe.

Some years ago, I was stuck in Hammond, Louisiana. because of an ice storm that passed through the south. After spending what seemed an eternity at a truck stop, reading that book in particular I finally summoned enough courage to try to get home for Christmas.

The journey was perilous but I managed to get behind a UPS truck and we talked on the CB radio all the way to Tuscaloosa. Exhausted because of the overnight trek I stopped at a large truck stop there. Walking into the restaurant it was almost empty save one wretched looking soul sitting at the counter.

Sitting down a chair away from him, I ordered some coffee. He was banged up and bruised. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked him what happened. The poor soul explained that he was from Australia and was on a walk-about through the US when some kids mugged him. He looked hungry and his hands were shaking so I bought him some breakfast and we talked about Australia for a while. The meal finished he said he had to be on his way. Reaching into my pocket, I gave him all the cash I had. This brought a tear to his eye and mine also.

Walking out I stopped to pay the tab when I decided to give him some more money. I took it off my credit card and returned to hand it to him. Looking around I could not see him. After all, we were the only two customers in the place and there was no way he could get passed me to exit. The server looked puzzled when I inquired about him saying, “There was no one there but me”. I ran outside but there was no one there. Puzzled, I once more questioned the server and explained his physical appearance; she replied, “I had been her only breakfast customer that morning”.

Now over the years of traveling which have been many this is the strangest experience I ever had and the most rewarding There is no way to explain the feeling I received when we shook hands good bye. It was like a peace I had never known before. The rest of the trip went on without any problem even though the roads were icy and treacherous. My wife had told me we had no power but that did not matter. All I could think about was that poor soul all alone and hurting or was he?

Each Christmas my thoughts return to that Christmas Eve and I wonder about him. Was he real, was he a spirit or an angel I needed desperately that particular Christmas? Whenever I am down my thoughts return to that morning and the present he gave to me. That gift was far greater than any amount of cash I could have given him. I have kept it in my heart all these years.


Have any of us entertained angels unaware? Perhaps many of us have and remain oblivious as to the good we have done--or perhaps the damage to our hearts if we've failed.

Thanks so much to J.J. for sharing this beautiful story of Christmas. Whether those we meet in need are angels or not, let's remember to consider the possibility.