Category Archives: 2012

A Christmas Story 2012 ®

1:00 PM – December 23rd

An alarm clock goes off in a one bedroom house. A sleepy man sits up to the side of his bed and rubs his eyes as he begins trying to wake up. He reaches up to stretch, grabs his back, and doubles over as he tenses up from the strain of being overworked the night before. His black hair is tussled and he wears a pair of long pajama pants with no shirt.

“Jim, I have breakfast ready for you if you have time to eat it.” His wife hollers down the hall. He forces himself to get out of bed and makes his way to the kitchen.

“Daddy daddy!” His sweet four-year-old daughter yells as he hobbles down the hall toward her.

“Good morning, Elizabeth.”

The little blonde-headed girl with big blue eyes runs toward him wearing her fuzzy, purple pajamas with little ducks on them.

“Don’t jump on daddy, Sweetie, his back hurts.” Her mom yells down the hallway to her.

“It’s okay.” Jim says as he scoops her up. “Daddy’s back never hurts too bad for his little girl.”

“Daddy, are you coming to my play tonight?” Elizabeth asks with big doe eyes. “You didn’t come to my last one, and I really want you to come to this one.” He looks back at her with a forced smile and a heavy heart. Since he got laid off from his last job, and he hasn’t been at his new place of employment long enough, he won’t have any time off available to go to the play. It feels like a another hole has been formed in his heart every time he has to miss one of her plays, but he knows his fiscal responsibilities, and he has to feed his family.

“Daddy has to work tonight, Honey. But mommy is going to record you, and I’ll watch it with you this weekend. Okay?”

“Okay.’ She says as she leans in and hugs his neck, “Love you, Daddy.”

“Love you too, Sweetie.” He sits her back down on the ground and heads into the kitchen to grab a quick meal before he has to rush to work.

“It’s eggs and bacon today,” his wife, Heather, says as he sits down to eat. She shares Elizabeth’s hair and eye color, and she is wearing blue flannel pajamas. She sits her husband’s plate on the table, and  smiles as she hands him a fork.

“I know, I could smell it down the hall. Thanks, Babe.” The two share a kiss, and he begins to eat his breakfast. Jim’s work schedule doesn’t allow him to get up until lunch time, but breakfast is his favorite meal so Heather makes it for him every afternoon before he goes to work.

As he finishes his meal, he throws his dishes in the sink and hustles back into his room to get changed for work. He throws on his greasy blue jumpsuit and as he is lacing up his boots Elizabeth comes running in the room.

“Bye, Daddy!” she says as she kisses him.

“Bye, Baby. I love you.” She runs out of the room while her father finishes tying his boots.

“Love you too!” She yells back down the hall to him. He finishes getting ready for work and grabs the lunchbox sitting on an end table in the living room Heather has prepared for him. She’s waiting at the door to tell him goodbye with a cheerful gleam in her eye.

“Have a good day.” She says as she hugs and kisses him.

“You too.” He rushes to work where he puts in a long 10 hours. The day drags on as he works from one back-breaking task to the next, but his joyous spirit remains intact. Exhausted, but smiling, he gets in his truck to leave for the night. As he drives down the road, the glow of his low-gas light catches his attention. He  finds the nearest convenience store and pulls in, all the while whistling a joyful Christmas tune.

The worn man pulls up to the gas pump, lifts the shifter into park, opens the door, and hops out all at once. The still air of the cold winter night deadens the whistle of his jolly tune as he enters the station and waves to the clerk.

“Jim.” The clerk says as he nods from behind the counter to his weekly customer.

“Hey, Mike. Busy night?”

“ Usually is around this time. I’m glad I’m getting off in twenty minutes.”

Jim has made his way to the counter after grabbing his favorite candy bar and a twenty ounce bottle of soda. “Put forty on pump two and give me a gift card for twenty and that Christmas card.” He says pointing to a card behind the counter.

“That’ll be seventy eight fifty.”

Jim pays, writes a quick note on the card, puts it in the envelope with the gift card, and waves to Mike with a grin as he leaves the station. “Merry Christmas, Mike.”

“Merry Christmas, Jim.”

After pumping his gas, Jim takes some black electrical tape from the inside of his truck door and tapes the envelope to the pump. He steps back and takes a second to smile then he get back into his truck and heads home.

He finally gets home around two in the morning to a quietly sleeping family. The only noise made is the click of the lock as he sneaks into his house, gets into his pajamas, and sneaks back into bed.

4:21 AM – December 24th

A silver sedan flies down the highway. The young brown-haired woman behind the wheel is driving well over the speed limit on her way to work. She thinks, I am going to be so late! If I hurry, I can at least put out the new stock before we open and my regional manager won’t find out.

She glances down at her dash to check her speed and realizes she is about out of fuel. Ugh! I still have to get gas! She whips into a gas station and jumps out to fill it up. She runs around the car, unscrews the cap to the gas tank, and sets it on the trunk. As she pulls her debit card out of her pocket and begins to slide it into the pump to pay, she notices that there is an envelope covering the display. Written on the front of the envelope is, ‘To the next person to get gas. Merry Christmas.’ She opens the envelope to find that inside is a Christmas card with a manger scene and a $20 gift card.

Her eyes start to swell up with tears as she thinks of the kindness of the person who left the card. It seems such an insignificant act to get teary-eyed about, giving $20 for gas, but the thought that someone would do that for a person they have never met dulls her anxiety for being late. She swipes the gift card and puts some gas in her vehicle before heading to work, now with a smile gracing her pretty, young face.

Her terrible morning seems to no longer be in her memory as she continues to think of the stranger’s kindness in leaving the gift card at the pump. As a retail worker, the holidays usually put her in a bad mood. So when she comes into the store with a beaming expression, her co-workers notice her unusually good mood.

“Michelle, are you okay?” a female team member asks. “You’re… happier than you usually are.”

“I’m great.” Michelle responds with a wide smile. “The weirdest thing happened this morning, Natalie. When I got gas, there was a gift card that said Merry Christmas on the pump.”

“Really? Aaand that’s why you’re so happy? A gift card.” Natalie says as she continues stocking the shelves with her manager. “I wish I could be so happy from finding a gift card.”

“I know, right?” The sarcasm in her co-worker’s tone goes unnoticed by the excited girl. Then she gets to thinking : Maybe if she did a random act of kindness, it would brighten someone else’s day as much as hers has been brightened. She thinks long and hard as she finishes out her work day. What will she do? What would she like someone to do for her?

Either way she would need a card.

So she buys a Christmas card from her store after she’s clocked off and heads home. She continues to think as she pulls through a drive-through at a fast food restaurant.

“Thank you for stopping. Would you like to try our holiday shake?” The voice of the drive-through worker breaks her dreamy thinking.

“Oh. Yes, I’ll take a number two with no pickles and a medium orange soda please.”

“Okay that’ll be $5.27 at your second window.” She drives around the corner of the building, her mind still wheeling on ideas on how she can brighten someone’s day.  As she pulls up to the window, the worker called out to her, “Okay that’ll be $15.36.”

“I thought it was…” she begins to answer as her words are cut short by the worker.

“Sorry, that’s for the next order. Yours is $5.27.” She begins to hand the worker her debit card when it hits her. Her eyes go wide and her mouth stretches into a ‘aha’ smile as the mist from her breath dances from her lips.

“Both!” Michelle says excitedly, “I’ll pay for both!” The worker smiles back at her with a half-look of confusion as he takes her card, swipes it, and gives it back to her. She sits in her car and smiles as she thinks of how happy paying for the large order will make the person behind her. The urge to squeal in excitement is almost too much, but she holds it in.

“Here you go, have a nice day.” The employee says, handing her the food she had ordered, his smile now deepening as he recognizes the kind act for what it is.

“Thanks. You too.” She sits the food in her passenger seat and notices the card she had bought. “Oh! I almost forgot. Give this to them please.” She hands the card to the worker and waves as she leaves.

The young woman’s body tingles with excitement the whole way home as she thinks about her day. Her day was going terribly, then she got the free gas, then she was able to pass the favor along to brighten someone else’s day. It’s almost too much elation for her to stand.

She gets home and eats her fast food before sitting down to watch some television. She stares at the screen, but she isn’t watching. Lost in thought, she thinks of how many people her kindness might affect. Will the person behind her continue to pass on the kindness? How far will it go?  After sitting in front of the television for a few hours, it is time to go to bed. She does her nightly routine her thoughts continuing to wander the entire time.

She plops into bed, pulls the comforter up to her neck, and stares at the ceiling for a few more moments. The minutes tick by as she lays awake in bed and thinks of how her day could have been terrible, but turned out to be one of the greatest days of her life. And all over a gift card. She closes her eyes to doze off and smiles.

2:13 PM – December 24th

A man works on a computer as he sits in a bank office behind a large mahogany desk. A gold name plate that reads William Howard sits at the front corner facing his door. He has black hair that is peppered with grey and wears a suit with a red tie. His expression is solemn, as always it is, while he works without pause.

People walk by his office but won’t enter out of fear of him for his position. He had always been known in his younger years as a fun-loving, cheerful man. In his climb to the big seat though, he stepped on a few toes and hurt his image. The years of loneliness in the workplace has led to some resentment in the back of his mind toward those that shy away from him. That resentment that people see in his eyes in turn cause them to shy away from him, causing a vicious cycle. For a little while after he got into his authoritative position, he tried to start conversations and make friends, but had little success. Now he only works and speaks on business matters to his employees.

The branch manager leaves his office to go to the restroom down the hall and as he returns to his office, he is greeted by one of his employees.

“G,good afternoon, sir. Have a good lunch?”

William eyes the young employee curiously for a moment before answering, “yup.” He walks into his office, forcefully shuts the door behind him, and quickly closes his blinds on the tall window next to his door. He grunts and starts to think to himself as he sits back to his desk and straightens his tie, I don’t know why that guy always tries to talk to me. He’s the only one in the building that tries. You would think he would have gotten the hint by now. Probably just trying to get in good with the boss so he can have my job when I retire. He taps his fingers on his desk as he stares at his computer screen. The interaction, albeit short and of little importance, has oddly suffocated his desire to continue working. Whatever. He finishes his thoughts and forces himself to type up one more report before leaving for the day.

The grumpy man throws on his black overcoat, gloves, and scarf before getting in his black luxury car to leave. As he drives down the road the radio plays a merry Christmas tune. He thinks of Christmas and what it has meant to him over the years. Then his thoughts drift to what his night will entail. His wife is on a trip promoting her book and his son has recently left for the military. The thought of being lonely in his home after his long solitary day at work only agitates him further. And now the cheerful music on the radio is making his mood worse, so he slaps the volume knob and shuts it off. I’m not going to cook for one person, he thinks. I’ll just grab something on the way home.

He pulls into the slowest fast food restaurant in sight and goes through the drive-through. The squelch of the intercom only annoys him more as the worker asks to take his order.

“Thank you for stopping. Would you like to try our holiday shake?”

“No I wouldn’t,” he snaps. “Give me a number twelve with a large drink. And… give me a holiday shake.”

“That will be $15.36 at the second window please.” William pulls around to see that there was another car already waiting at the second window and he huffs. “I didn’t think there was anyone in this drive-through or I wouldn’t have stopped. Hurry up, you silver jalopy. Get a real job so you can afford a real car.”

The impatient man watches the driver’s every move critically as he grows more and more impatient. After waiting for a few short moments, he sees the driver hand the drive-through worker a card through the window. “Oh c’mon. If you are going to visit your friend, go inside.”

Shortly after handing the worker the card, the driver in front of him leaves. “Finally.” He says as he pulls up to the window.

As he rolls his window down, the worker hands him the bag of food he ordered with a big smile on his face. “Here’s your food, sir.”

William is too stunned by the quickness of it all to say anything. Why hadn’t he had to pay for his food first? He lays the bag in his passenger seat and turns back to talk to the worker. Before he can say anything though, the worker hands him a card in an envelope and closes the window. He opens the envelope hesitantly. The image on the front is a night scene with a bright star in the middle and a bible verse on the front. It says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.’

William feels his hardened heart warm. It’s only a fast food meal, but who would be so kind to a stranger? Why would they be so nice? Suddenly he begins to feel ashamed about what he had thought of the slowness of the person in front of him who was really being charitable to him. He turns the card over to read the message on the back. ‘I’m passing on the kindness that was given to me. Merry Christmas!’

The person in the car behind the dumbfounded William honks as he is looking at the card, also occupying the window.  He shakes his head as he remembers where he is and quickly pulls out of the way. His large luxury car motor barely makes a sound as he pulls back onto the road.

The wipers on his windshield squeak as they dust off the light snowfall of the night. William’s mind reels as he drives down the road and stares blankly through them. He is astonished that there is still such generosity in the world. In the world of corporate banking, to which he belongs, no one is so kind. The world he lives in is filled with business men who would throw you under the bus in a moment’s notice to make themselves look better. As the thoughts swirl through his head, he is given a feeling he hasn’t had in a long time: Joy. True joy. He reaches down, turns his radio back on, and lets the cheerful music play, the unease from his hateful thoughts having melted away. As his cheer begins to overwhelm him, all of the classic Christmas cartoons he watched as a child slip into his thoughts, filling his merriment further. He looks over to see a supermarket as he drives through the less-fortunate side of town and makes the hasty decision to buy some of those videos. This lonely night doesn’t have to be without Christmas spirit!

He quickly pulls into the parking lot and doesn’t even notice that he nearly side-swipes another car in the road.

While walking into the store he hums a happy Christmas tune oblivious to the conditions of the store or his location. “Merry Christmas, sir.” He says to the greeter at the door. He usually ignores those workers.

“Merry Christmas.” The greeter responds hesitantly.

The world has a whole new look as William walks through the supermarket, his shoes squeaking from walking on the wet parking lot. As he passes by the Christmas card section on the way to the video department he abruptly stops. The words of the card run through his head. “I’m passing on the kindness,” he says enthusiastically. His step is hastened as the thought of being able to provide the same happiness he was given bubbles inside him. A card on the shelf sticks out to him so he grabs it, uses a pen from his coat to write a quick note on it, and stuffs it in an envelope with some money. He makes a quick trip to the back to grab a Christmas video and makes his way to the front to checkout. There usually aren’t many people in this store because the bigger name store is across the street so he has no line to wait in.

The cashier greets him as he approaches the counter, “How are you today, sir?”

“I’m great! How are you?”

“Good.” The register beeps as the items are rung up. “That’ll be $8.43.” William pulls a $50 bill from his pocket and hands it to the cashier.

“Here, and keep the change.” The cashier takes the money with doubt in his eyes. As he looks at William, he notices the cheer in his expression and begins to understand the sincerity of the offer.

“Thank you, sir! Thank you very much!”

“You’re welcome. Merry Christmas!” The cheery gentleman walks back to the end of the conveyor belt at the counter and puts the envelope with the card and the money at the end. He turns and smiles at the cashier and walks back out of the store.

The drive home seems to be a short one as thoughts race through his mind the whole way. When he gets home, he pops some popcorn, puts the Christmas movie in the player, and plops down on the couch to watch. His day turned out to be a good day after all, and this lonely Christmas won’t be as gray as he was beginning to think it would be.

6:30 PM – December 24th

A man stands in the food aisle in a supermarket. His blonde hair is greasy from wearing the hat to his pizza deliver uniform all day and his goatee is unkempt. With a disheartened expression, he looks at the different loaves of bread on the shelf with his hands in his pockets. His money rustles as he pulls his tips from the night out. Seven bucks, he thinks. What can I get with seven bucks?

He wears a weary frown as he grabs a loaf and makes his way to the lunch meat section. He searches the sale section of the meat and cheese. About four bucks left. A combo pack of meat and cheese for a little over $3 stands out to him so he scoops it up. Past Christmas memories run through his head as he walks to the front of the store.  How different this one will be from his younger years. It will be much like the others that preceded it most recently: Prosaic. College was a stupid idea. If I didn’t have these student loans, we wouldn’t be scraping by right now. He keeps hoping for a job opening in his career field, but his hunt has left him little to be hopeful for.

As he gets to the front of the store, he notices that there is only one register open. Fortunately the big store across the street leaves this store empty most days. He notices the cashier is smiling as he approaches the checkout counter. “Good evening… Larry,” The clerk finishes enthusiastically. The pizza delivery man looks at the clerk puzzled, then looks down to his shirt where the cashier had peaked at briefly.

“Oh, my name badge. Hi.” Through his sunken demeanor, Larry finally notices that the clerk is acting strange and keeps glancing at the end of his counter. He follows the clerks gaze and sees an envelope. As he looks back, he notices the cashier is now overly excited and his smile is now even bigger than before.

Larry walks to the end of the counter and picks up the envelope. It reads, ‘To the customer after me at this checkout. Merry Christmas.’ He looks back to the clerk who gives an affirming nod and reluctantly opens the envelope. There is a Christmas card inside with a decorated tree and a baby in a manger underneath. The card says; The greatest Christmas Gift. He turns the card over to read; ‘I’m passing on the happiness given to me. Take this $100 and have a joyous Christmas season.

“Hundred bucks!” He exclaims.

“A hundred bucks?” The cashier asks with shock. Larry looks into the envelope and sees the crisp new one hundred dollar bill. He grabs his head and falls back against the display behind him sending various candies tumbling from their shelves. As he slides down the metal rack he begins to weep. He pulls his knees up and rests his head against his arms on top of them. The cashier comes out from behind the counter and places his hand on Larry’s shoulder. The bewildered pizza man looks at the cashier with tear filled eyes for a moment, then his eyes widen before he jumps up and rushes back into the store.

Meanwhile, at Larry’s home, his wife is cleaning as two children watch Christmas cartoons on television.

“Mom, when is Dad gonna get home?” The oldest son asks.

“I don’t know, John, he should have been home twenty minutes ago.” Larry’s wife, Nora, walks over and checks out the window to look for signs of her husband’s arrival. The youngest son runs over to the window to look with his mother. His second-hand footy pajamas were well-worn by his older brother before he ever received them. The years in the attic hadn’t done much to brighten their color either.

“There he is!” He shouts.

“Okay, John, take Mitchell to the table with you and get ready to eat.” Nora looks back out to see that her husband is carrying a bag containing two large boxes and something round that has been double-bagged. She rushes out of the door and grabs one of the bags to help him. “Larry! What is this stuff?” He looks at her with tear-filled eyes.

“An answer to our prayers, Nora! I just wanted to provide John and Mitchell one Christmas that wasn’t ruined by our money situation, and my prayer was answered.”

“How did you buy all of this stuff, Larry? We can’t afford this!”

“The person before me left a hundred bucks and a card to the next person in the lane. It was me, Nora. The next person in the lane; it was me!” His wife falls to her knees as joyful tears streak down her face and Larry falls right behind her to caress her. The commotion causes the children to rush out of the small duplex.

“Mommy, Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Mitch!” his father exclaims. “Your mommy and me are just really happy, that’s all.”

“Tomorrow, you and John will be opening two more presents and we will be eating a whole Christmas Ham!” their mother exclaims. “This Christmas will be the best one yet!” The family joins in a hug and the parents cry together. The boys jump up and down with glee inside their parents’ arms. Nora finally wipes her tears, looks at John, and says, “Okay, Honey, now go get Mitchell seated and we will eat.”

“C’mon, Mitch.” The older brother grabs his sibling by the hand and leads him to the kitchen table.

“How are we going to pass this kindness along, Larry? We don’t have any money to give to anyone.”

“I already did, Babe. I helped a guy get his truck unstuck out of the snow on the way home. I bought a card at the store before I left and I gave it to him.” Larry hugs his wife one final time and they get up to walk in the door. Before going in, he stops and looks at Nora with a wide smile. He turns around to lean out of the door and shouts, “merry Christmas!” to all that can hear.

May you enjoy this holiday season, spend time with the ones you love, and spread holiday cheer

Merry Christmas,

Shawn Bain