A holiday find helps out in a special way
Katie knew the feeling. She’d been handed one of those special envelopes before, in fact twice before. The economy in this rural county had really bottomed out. The furniture industry was hit first; she lost that job after giving 10 years to the company. Then she lucked up and found a job in the mill, making the fabric that went on the furniture, needless to say, she’d gotten an envelope there too. A cascading series of events just kept Katie on the verge of thinking everything was going to be alright, but then something would happen to pull the rug right out from under her. She’d tried so hard not to get discouraged, but when she walked into work this morning and her supervisor said he needed to talk to her privately, she immediately thought she knew what was coming.
“Katie, you’re one of the hardest workers on the floor. You just don’t know how much I hate doing this. Last hired, first fired, you know. I’ll give you a great recommendation. I know you’ll find something soon.” He slipped the envelope out of his top desk drawer and slid it across the desk to Katie.
“Yeah, I know. It doesn’t matter that there are some people out there that are not doing what they need to do. It all comes down to I got here last.” She stood up, shaking her head looking at the floor. She couldn’t believe it was happening again. Tears started to well up, but Katie wouldn’t let anyone see her cry. She headed for the office door. Her boss watched her leave and wished that there was something he could do to keep her on.
Katie packed up her few belongings, and started that long walk to the door. She couldn’t bring herself to speak to anyone on her way out. She was too crushed, too defeated, and too embarrassed about once again failing to hold on to a job. She took each step as a walk of shame. She’d let her family down again.
Katie walked aimlessly around the small township. She looked in each window hoping for an employment sign, but the only thing she saw was her reflection- sad, beaten down, aging by the minute. She kept walking until she reached her church. She entered the sanctuary, to get out of the cold wind. If nothing else, she could count on the preacher for a kind word and a partner in prayer.
She went down to the front of the sanctuary. The Hanging of the Greens had been the last Sunday afternoon. The church was beautiful, the Chrismon tree sat to the right of the pulpit. Greenery and candles decorated each window sill. Poinsettias lined the front altar. It was a beautiful sight. The baptistery banner proclaimed “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come” in beautiful gold lettering and a huge star on a deep blue tapestry. The offering table had the Bible opened to the Christmas story in Luke. Katie stood in front of the Bible and read aloud the passages. Each verse took new meaning in her heart as she read.
Pastor Bob watched in silence as Katie read. He could see a change coming over her. He knew she was having a special moment and he needed to give her the gift of time. When she looked back up to the tapestry, there was a smile on her face, a sense of peace radiated from her. He sat back and waited to see if she wanted to talk or to pray, but Katie turned and went back out the front doors of the church. He knew that she had found what she needed.
Katie walked toward the school playground. Her kids would be getting out of school soon. She might as well tell them the news. She didn’t know how on earth she would manage getting them anything on their Christmas lists, but they had their health and a roof over their heads, that was something. After all, it was more that baby Jesus had.
She sat down on the bench to wait for the afternoon bell. A few of the classes were still at recess. Some of the parents were starting to line up in the car pool line. The early buses were pulling into the lot. It was a busy time of the day. Squirrels were chasing each other trying to gather the most nuts. Neighbors were blowing leaves out of their yards into the road or their neighbor’s yard. Katie started to count her blessings, just like her grandmother had taught her. She could still her voice whispering, “When things get tough, you get on your knees and start thinking about everything you have to be thankful for. And you can start with… you got up this morning.”
Katie bent down on her knees. “Grandma, this one is for you. Lord, I have so much to be thankful for. First, you let me wake up in my home with my family surrounding me. Second, you gave me a grandma that knew what was important. Third, I may have lost my job, but I know there is a plan for me. Fourth…” Katie stopped short; she spied a piece of white paper on the ground under some of the leaves bunched around the legs of the bench. “What’s this?” She reached down and picked up an envelope. It was sealed, and her name was on the outside. “What the….?” She stopped herself, and looked up to the heavens, “Sorry.”
She turned the envelope over in her hands. On the back flap there were two letters, S. C. She turned the envelope over again, looking at the front, it definitely was her name. The envelope was dirty, it had obviously been there for some time, but how, or who had put it there? Katie got up and looked all around; nobody was paying any attention to her. She was perplexed. She sat down on the bench and stared at the envelope.
She finally decided to open it. She turned it over and slid her finger under the flap. She pulled out the contents. There was a letter wrapped around a stack of one hundred dollar bills. Katie looked up to see if anyone looked like they were watching her, or if somebody would know what was going on. She was alone on the bench, the children had left the playground, the parents were all in their cars, the bus drivers in their busses all ready for dismissal. She slid the money into the envelope and put it in her purse and started reading the letter.
I’ve been watching and know all about how hard this year has been. I know I can’t do much, but please take this gift to you in your time of need. One day, you’ll be able to help someone in their time of need, and that is all you ever have to do to repay me.
With much love,
PS There is a name and address on the back of this letter. Go see John. He’ll help you find a job that you can really count on. See you soon. SC
Katie turned the letter over; sure enough there was a name and address on the back with a phone number.
With a ringing of bells in her ears, stampeding children exited the building. She slid the note into her purse. Katie’s boys ran over to her ready to go home. As they walked home she told them about the events of her day, being let go again, finding the letter wrapped around some money, and maybe even having something that they could count on. She showed them the letter. Both boys knew in a second, it had to be from Santa Claus.
Tommy gushed, “Mom, we told Santa that all we wanted for Christmas was for you to find a job you really liked. We told him, that you had worked and worked, but everybody was letting people go, and it really made you feel bad. Mom, that’s from Santa. I know it is.” Timmy agreed heartily as they walked toward home.
The minute they got home, both boys insisted that Katie call the number on the back of the letter. She talked to the gentleman for quite a bit, while the children hung on every word she said and tried to be quiet enough to hear what the person on the other end of the phone was saying. Katie’s face went from apprehension to slowly grinning, to pure joy in the course of just a few minutes.
She hung up the phone, to a chorus of What did he say? and What are you going to do? accompanied by two boys of boundless energy jumping up and down for all that they were worth.
Katie smiled and said, “Well, a special company is going to be moving into the area in a few weeks. They specialized in toy production. John wants me to be a manager of one of the departments.”
“What department?” Timmy interrupted.
“The doll furniture department, anyway, he said the work would be steady and I could count on it. What do you think guys?”
“When do you start?” Tommy inquired.
“Well, he said in two weeks, right after Christmas vacation.”
The boys bounded around Katie, hooping and hollering, having a grand old time. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Katie felt her old self bubbling up. She knew she had a job and a little bit of money to take care of things until then.
Once she finally got the boys calmed down enough to tuck into bed, they quietly read the Christmas story before she cut out the lights. She closed their door with the calm assurance that everything was going to be alright.
Whoever S. C. was, he’d provided her with tools she needed to make it through. She went to her desk and took out a clean envelope, and placed all but three of the bills inside of it with a note that she gratefully wrote by hand. “I’ve been watching, and I know things are rough. Would you please make sure this money goes to people that need it during this hard time,” she signed it, See you soon, S.C. She stuffed the envelope with the letters and cash. She knew where her first stop would be tomorrow morning.
Katie walked the boys to school hugged them tight and reminded them that S. C. was always watching, with a wink. They both straightened up and looked like perfect angels in little boy outfits heading into the building. She headed toward the church. The morning air was brisk and clear. She walked by the windows of the townships small shops. She noticed that she didn’t look like the old woman she had seen reflected in them yesterday. She stood taller, prouder, more like the Katie she knew she was. She walked into the sanctuary of her church. The building was warm and the smell of fresh pine greenery filled the air. She walked down to the offering table, and looked at the Christmas story once again.
She sat down of the front pew, and prayed, “Lord, sorry I got interrupted yesterday, but you knew all about that. I have so much to be thankful for, it would take hours to say. I’ve been blessed with this gift and now I want to share it with those in need. I know Pastor Bob knows every family in the area, and knows the greatest needs. So the letter said to help those that need it, here’s where I’m leaving it. I know you’ll use the money to help more people than I can alone. Please use it as a blessing, and please, bless this S. C. I really appreciate the kindness in words and deeds. Amen.” She got up and put the envelope on the offering table and left the church ready to start a new year with a new beginning of hope and joy in her heart.