Child's story about 4 animals who learn that giving is far more wonderful than receiving.
THE GIVING LESSON
It was a crisp winter morning in mid-December, a time when thoughts of Christmas are on most animals’ minds. But this was not the case for one small blue bird. She was too busy to think about the coming holiday. She sat perched on a branch pecking at the beginnings of her new nest. Down below, Phillip, the farmer’s new puppy, came bouncing across the grass.
He stopped at the tree and looked up. “Hey! Hey, you!” he yelped. “Guess what I want for Christmas?”
The bird looked down and replied, “Who are you?”
“Huh? Oh, I’m Phillip. Guess what I want for Christmas?”
The bird sighed and said, “I’m Ava. I haven’t been able to enjoy the Christmas season because I got separated from my flock and I ended up here. I don’t know anybody and I’ll be alone for Christmas.” She looked unhappy as she added, “I miss my friends and my nice comfy nest back home.” She added another twig to her sparse nest.
Phillip sat down on the dry, brown grass. Suddenly he said, “So, guess what I want for Christmas?!”
Ava sadly looked down at the puppy and asked, “O.K., what do you want for Christmas?”
“I want a big bone! I want the biggest bone in the world! I want it to be juicy and hard so I can bite on it all year until next Christmas!”
With that, Phillip bounded away towards the garden, yelping on and on about wanting a bone. He didn’t even think to ask Ava what she wanted for Christmas. Ava watched him leave, then looked back at the nest she was trying to make, and she felt alone.
Phillip was so busy running and thinking about the bone that he didn’t see the rabbit in the garden until it was too late. He crashed into her and they tumbled into a row of onions.
“Sorry! Guess what I want for Christmas?” he said.
The rabbit sat up and brushed dirt from her ears. “What?”
Phillip said, “I want a big bone! I want the biggest bone in the world! I want it to be juicy and hard so I can bite on it all year until next Christmas!”
The rabbit replied, “Oh yeah? Well I want a giant carrot! There hasn’t been any carrots in the farmer’s garden for months. I want a huge, orange carrot that smells so good you could smell it for miles! I can’t wait for Christmas so I can get my carrot!”
The rabbit started to hop away, and Phillip shouted after her, “Hey! What’s your name?”
“Mindy!” she shouted over her shoulder as she disappeared under a hedge.
Meanwhile, Ava was flying in circles above the barnyard, looking for hay to use in her nest. She spotted a small mound at the corner of the fence. She landed lightly on the ground next to it and was about to pick up a straw when she heard a small voice say, “Hi! I’m R.J.”
Startled, she looked around and there, in the shadow of the fence post, was a small field mouse. She smiled and said, “Hello, I’m Ava.”
“Nice to meet you,” said R.J. “Guess what I want for Christmas?”
Ava sighed. Here we go again, she thought. To R.J., she said, “What do you want for Christmas?”
“I want an enormous chunk of cheese! I want the best tasting cheese in the world, and the biggest chunk it comes in! I can’t wait!” R.J. began licking his whiskers.
Ava said, “I’ve just moved here. I’m trying to make a new nest as good as the one I had at home. It was made of soft leaves and sticks. Once I found bits of shiny food wrappers in the playground trash cans, and I added them to it, too. My nest used to look so beautiful when the sun hit it, like it was made of diamonds…” Her voice trailed away as she got lost in her thoughts about home.
R.J. said, “Well, I can’t wait until Christmas morning when I can eat my yummy cheese! Hey, gotta run! Good luck with your nest!” And with that he scurried into the barn.
Ava went back to gathering her hay and tried not to think about how lonely she felt.
After scooting around the barn for a while, R.J. went through a hole in the wall near the garden hedges. He heard some soft sounds and went to investigate. He found Mindy warming herself in a patch of sunlight.
“Hello Mindy!” he said.
“Hey R.J.,” she replied. “Guess what I want for Christmas?”
R.J. shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I want an enormous chunk of cheese! I want the best tasting cheese in the world, and the biggest chunk it comes in! I can’t wait!”
Mindy said, “Oh yeah? Well I want a giant carrot! There hasn’t been any carrots in the farmer’s garden for months. I want a huge, orange carrot that smells so good you could smell it for miles! I can’t wait for Christmas so I can get my carrot!”
They both got quiet, each thinking about what he or she wanted to get. Then Mindy said, “You know the farmer’s new puppy, Phillip? He wants a big bone for Christmas. Yuck.”
R.J. wrinkled up his nose and said, “Yeah. Yuck. Well, gotta go. Bye!”
“See ya!” said Mindy.
Now, all this time, Santa Claus was in the North Pole getting ready for Christmas, but through his magic he could hear all these conversations and he was concerned. The animals were only thinking about what they wanted to get for Christmas. They didn’t understand that the Christmas Season is a time for giving. Santa thought about this for a while, and he came up with a plan to help the animals learn the true spirit of Christmas. And this is what happened…
Christmas morning finally came, and with the first light of dawn Phillip opened his eyes and saw his gift waiting for him. He rushed over to it and tore the shiny wrapping paper off the box. There, inside, was a giant, orange carrot. What’s this?! Phillip sat on his haunches and cocked his head to one side. Is this some kind of a joke? At the same moment, Mindy was opening her gift. Inside her box was an enormous piece of cheese. And in the barn, R.J. was opening a beautifully wrapped box containing, you guessed it, a big bone. The animals were greatly disappointed, but Santa’s magic was about to touch them.
Phillip thought, I have an idea! Mindy, the rabbit under the hedge, told me she wanted a big juicy carrot just like this one. I’ll give it to her! He began to feel excited, because he remembered she said it had been a long time since the garden had carrots growing in it. She would love to have this! He stuck the shiny foil bow onto the carrot and, carrying it carefully in his mouth, he trotted out to the garden.
When he found her, Mindy was sitting with her back to him, quietly staring into the garden. His heart was racing with anticipation. He set the carrot on the ground and cleared his throat. As she turned around he smiled and said, “Merry Christmas, Mindy!” Her eyes opened wide and the surprise and joy that spread across her face made Phillip's heart soar. Mindy gingerly picked up the carrot, then threw her arms around Phillip and said, “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”
When Phillip had gone, Mindy sat sniffing her new carrot. Suddenly, she remembered the conversation she’d had with R.J. Didn’t he say he wanted a chunk of cheese for Christmas? She looked at the cheese sitting in her gift box, and the idea came to her. I’ll take this gift over to R.J. He’ll love it! And the magic of giving started to grow in her heart, too. She began to feel excited as she hopped as fast as she could to the barn. She raced right up to R.J., who looked startled to see her. “This is for you!” she said happily. “Merry Christmas!” R.J. looked puzzled as he opened the box, but when he saw the huge chunk of cheese inside he whooped with joy. Mindy had never felt so happy! She had no idea it felt so good to give.
When they had calmed down a bit, R.J. said, “Hey, didn’t you tell me you knew a puppy who wanted a bone for Christmas?”
“Yeah,” said Mindy, “his name is Phillip.”
R.J. replied, “Well, I’ve got a big bone. What do you say we take it over to him?”
“Great idea!” said Mindy.
Together, they pushed and nudged the big box with shiny wrapping paper to the farmhouse where they found Phillip playing in the yard. R.J. and Mindy were bursting with excitement. They knew how happy Phillip would be when he opened the box!
When they got to the place where Phillip was sitting, R.J. and Mindy yelled, “Merry Christmas!” Phillip tore open the present. The puppy yelped with delight at the sight of the bone! All three animals celebrated as the true spirit of Christmas filled them with joy. They told each other how thankful they were that they were together, giving to each other and feeling so full of happiness.
Suddenly, Phillip thought about Ava. He said, “I met a sweet bird named Ava who got separated from her flock. She seemed lonely.”
R.J. replied, “I met her too. She was trying to build a new nest that felt homey like the one she left. She seemed sad.”
“What if she’s all alone on Christmas morning?” said Mindy. “We have to do something.”
The three animals sat in thought. Then R.J.’s eyes rested on the shiny wrapping paper lying next to Phillip’s bone, and he got an idea.
Ava was sitting in her nest, trying to convince herself that it was just an ordinary day. She tried not to think about Christmas, or about her friends so far away. She wished she felt at home in her new nest. Suddenly, she heard singing in the distance. It sounded like… Christmas carols? The sound was getting louder. Then, over the top of a hill appeared a puppy, a rabbit and a field mouse, singing joyfully. They stopped at the base of her tree. Looking up, they shouted, “Merry Christmas, Ava!”
R.J. climbed the tree trunk. In his mouth he carried shiny bits of wrapping paper and foil ribbons. He set them on the branch before her nest, and said, “We wanted to give you a Christmas present. You can work these into your nest like you told me you did before, so it feels more like home.”
Ava was speechless. She felt all the loneliness melt away from her heart as she smiled down at her new friends. She said, “This is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me. Thank you all so much!”
As Ava wove the foil ribbons and paper scraps into her nest, the others began telling her the events of the morning. Each took his or her turn sharing what it felt like to give to another. Everyone agreed it felt a hundred times better to give than to receive.
Up in the North Pole, Santa Claus was listening, too. With each story he nodded his head and smiled. He was proud of the little animals for the lesson they had learned.
The animals now knew the power of giving, and how good it feels to bring joy to someone else. And as they celebrated Christmas morning together, the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and Ava’s nest sparkled in the sunlight like it was made of diamonds.