It Has Been Brought To Our Attention
That "The Best Christmas Ever" Is Not The Title Of This Story

The True Title Of This Story According To A Google Search Is
"A Christmas Prayer"
And It Was Written By Rian B. Anderson

Pa Never Had Much Compassion For The Lazy Or Those Who Squandered Their Means And Then Never Had Enough For The Necessities
But For Those Who Were Genuinely In Need, His Heart Was As Big As All Outdoors
It Was From Him That I Learned The Greatest Joy In Life Comes From Giving
Not From Receiving

It Was Christmas Eve 1881

I Was Fifteen Years Old And Feeling Like The World Had Caved In On Me Because There Just Hadn't Been Enough Money To Buy Me The Rifle That I'd Wanted So Bad That Year For Christmas

We Did The Chores Early That Night For Some Reason
I Just Figured Pa Wanted A Little Extra Time So We Could Read In The Bible
So After Supper Was Over I Took My Boots Off
I Stretched Out In Front Of The Fireplace
I Waited For Pa To Get Down The Old Bible
I Was Still Feeling Sorry For Myself
To Be Honest, I Wasn't In Much Of A Mood To Read Scriptures
But Pa Didn't Get The Bible
Instead He Bundled Up And Went Outside
I Couldn't Figure It Out Because We Had Already Done All The Chores
I Didn't Worry About It Long Though
I Was Too Busy Wallowing In Self-Pity

Soon Pa Came Back In
It Was A Cold Clear Night Out And There Was Ice In His Beard
"Come On, Matt," He Said "Bundle Up Good, It's Cold Out Tonight"

I Was Really Upset Then
Not Only Wasn't I Getting The Rifle For Christmas
Now Pa Was Dragging Me Out In The Cold
And For No Earthly Reason That I Could See
We'd Already Done All The Chores
I Couldn't Think Of Anything Else That Needed Doing
Especially Not On A Night Like This
But I Knew Pa Was Not Very Patient At One Dragging One's Feet When He'd Told Them To Do Something
So I Got Up And Put My Boots Back On And Got My Cap, Coat And Mittens
Ma Gave Me A Mysterious Smile As I Opened The Door To Leave The House
Something Was Up But I Didn't Know What

Outside, I Became Even More Dismayed
There In Front Of The House Was The Work Team
They Were Already Hitched To The Big Sled
Whatever It Was We Were Going To Do Wasn't Going To Be A Short, Quick, Little Job
I Could Tell Because
We Never Hitched Up The Big Sled Unless We Were Going To Haul A Big Load

Pa Was Already Up On The Seat, Reins In Hand
I Reluctantly Climbed Up Beside Him
The Cold Was Already Biting At Me
I Wasn't Happy

When I Was On, Pa Pulled The Sled Around The House
He Stopped In Front Of The Woodshed
He Got Off And I Followed
"I Think We'll Put On The High Sideboards," He Said
"Here, Help Me"

The High Sideboards!!!

It Had Been A Bigger Job Than I Wanted To Do With Just The Low Sideboards On
But Whatever It Was We Were Going To Do Would Be A Lot Bigger With The High Sideboards On
When We Had Exchanged The Sideboards Pa Went Into The Woodshed And Came Out With An Armload Of Wood
The Same Wood I'd Spent All Summer Hauling Down From The Mountain
And Then All Fall Sawing Into Blocks And Splitting

What Was He Doing?

Finally I Said Something
"Pa," I Asked, "What Are You Doing?"
"You Been By The Widow Jensen's Lately?" He Asked
The Widow Jensen Lived About Two Miles Down The Road
Her Husband Had Died A Year Or So Ago
He Had Left Her With Three Children, The Oldest Being Eight

I'd Been By But So What?

"Yeah," I Said. "Why?"
"I Rode By Just Today," Pa Said
"Little Jakey Was Out Digging Around In The Woodpile Trying To Find A Few Chips
They're Out Of Wood, Matt"

That Was All He Said
Then He Turned And Went Back Into The Woodshed For Another Armload Of Wood
I Followed Him Into The Woodshed
We Loaded The Sled So High That I Began To Wonder If The Horses Would Be Able To Pull It

Pa Called A Halt To Our Loading

We Went To The Smokehouse And Pa Took Down A Big Ham And A Side Of Bacon
He Handed Them To Me And Told Me To Put Them In The Sled And Wait
When He Returned He Was Carrying A Sack Of Flour Over His Right Shoulder And A Smaller Sack Of Something In His Left Hand

"What's In The Little Sack?" I Asked

"Shoes, They're Out Of Shoes
Little Jakey Just Had Gunny Sacks Wrapped Around His Feet When He Was Out In The Woodpile This Morning
I Got The Children A Little Candy Too
It Just Wouldn't Be Christmas Without A Little Candy"

We Rode The Two Miles To Widow Jensen's Pretty Much In Silence
I Tried To Think Through What Pa Was Doing
We Didn't Have Much By Worldly Standards
Of Course, We Did Have A Big Woodpile, Though Most Of What Was Left Now Was Still In The Form Of Logs That I Would Have To Saw Into Blocks And Split Before We Could Use It

We Also Had Meat And Flour, So We Could Spare That
But I Knew We Didn't Have Any Money
So Why Was Pa Buying Them Shoes And Candy?
Really, Why Was He Doing Any Of This?
Widow Jensen Had Closer Neighbors Than Us
It Shouldn't Have Been Our Concern

We Came In From The Blind Side Of The Jensen House And Unloaded The Wood As Quietly As Possible
Then We Took The Meat And Flour And Shoes To The Door

We Knocked

The Door Opened A Crack And A Timid Voice Said, "Who Is It?"
"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, And My Son, Matt
Could We Come In For A Bit?"
Widow Jensen Opened The Door And Let Us In
She Had A Blanket Wrapped Around Her Shoulders
The Children Were Wrapped In Another Blanket
They Were Sitting In Front Of The Fireplace By A Very Small Fire That Hardly Gave Off Any Heat At All
Widow Jensen Fumbled With A Match And Finally Lit The Lamp

"We Brought You A Few Things, Ma'am," Pa Said
He Set Down The Sack Of Flour
I Put The Meat On The Table
Then Pa Handed Her The Sack That Had The Shoes In It
She Opened It Hesitantly And Took The Shoes Out One Pair At A Time
There Was A Pair For Her And One For Each Of The Children
Sturdy Shoes, The Best, Shoes That Would Last

I Watched Her Carefully
She Bit Her Lower Lip To Keep It From Trembling
Then Tears Filled Her Eyes And Started Running Down Her Cheeks
She Looked Up At Pa Like She Wanted To Say Something But It Wouldn't Come Out
"We Brought A Load Of Wood Too, Ma'am," Pa Said
He Turned To Me And Said, "Matt, Go Bring In Enough Wood To Last For Awhile
Let's Get That Fire Up To Size And Heat This Place Up"

I Wasn't The Same Person When I Went Back Out To Bring In The Wood
I Had A Big Lump In My Throat
Much As I Hate To Admit It
There Were Tears In My Eyes Too

In My Mind I Kept Seeing Those Three Kids Huddled Around The Fireplace
Their Mother Standing There With Tears Running Down Her Cheeks
So Much Gratitude In Her Heart That She Couldn't Speak
My Heart Swelled Within Me
A Joy Filled My Soul That I'd Never Known Before
I Had Given At Christmas Many Times Before
But Never When It Had Made So Much Of A Difference
I Could See We Were Literally Saving The Lives Of These People
I Soon Had The Fire Blazing And Everyone's Spirits Soared

The Kids Started Giggling When Pa Handed Them Each A Piece Of Candy
Widow Jensen Looked On With A Smile That Probably Hadn't Crossed Her Face For A Long Time

She Finally Turned To Us
"God Bless You," She Said
"I Know The Lord Himself Has Sent You
The Children And I Have Been Praying
That He Would Send One Of His Angels To Spare Us"

In Spite Of Myself, The Lump Returned To My Throat
The Tears Welled Up In My Eyes Again
I'd Never Thought Of Pa In Those Exact Terms Before
But After Widow Jensen Mentioned It I Could See That It Was Probably True
I Was Sure That A Better Man Than Pa Had Never Walked The Earth
I Started Remembering All The Times He Had Gone Out Of His Way For Ma And Me And Many Others
The List Seemed Endless As I Thought On It

Pa Insisted That Everyone Try On The Shoes Before We Left
I Was Amazed When They All Fit
I Wondered How Pa Had Known What Sizes To Get
Then I Guessed That If He Was On An Errand For The Lord That The Lord Would Make Sure He Got The Right Sizes

Tears Were Running Down Widow Jensen's Face Again When We Stood Up To Leave
Pa Took Each Of The Kids In His Big Arms And Gave Them A Big Hug
They Clung To Him And Didn't Want Us To Go
I Could See That They Missed Their Pa
I Was Glad That I Still Had Mine

At The Door Pa Turned To Widow Jensen And Said
"The Mrs. Wanted Me To Invite You And The Children To Come To Our House For Christmas Dinner Tomorrow
The Turkey Will Be More Than The Three Of Us Can Eat
A Man Can Get Cantankerous If He Has To Eat Turkey For Too Many Meals
We'll Be By To Get You About Eleven
It'll Be Nice To Have Some Little Ones Around Again
Matt, Here, Hasn't Been Little For Quite A Spell"
What Pa Said Was True
I Was The Youngest
My Two Older Brothers And Two Older Sisters Were All Married
They Had All Moved Away

Widow Jensen Nodded And Said, "Thank You, Brother Miles
I Don't Have To Say, "May The Lord Bless You
I Know For Certain That He Will"

Out On The Sled I Felt A Warmth That Came From Deep Within
I Wasn't Even Feeling The Bitter Cold

When We Had Gone A Ways, Pa Turned To Me And Said
I Want You To Know Something"

"Your Ma And Me Have Been Tucking A Little Money Away Here And There All Year So We Could Buy That Rifle For You But We Didn't Have Quite Enough
Then Yesterday A Man Who Owed Me A Little Money From Years Back Came By To Make Things Square
Your Ma And Me Were Real Excited, Thinking That Now We Could Get You That Rifle And I Started Into Town This Morning To Do Just That
But On The Way I Saw Little Jakey Out Scratching In The Woodpile With His Feet Wrapped In Those Gunny Sacks And I Knew What I Had To Do
So, Son, I Spent The Money For Shoes And A Little Candy For Those Children
I Hope You Understand"

I Understood And My Eyes Became Wet With Tears Again
I Understood Very Well And I Was So Glad Pa Had Done It
Just Then The Rifle Seemed Very Low On My List Of Priorities
Pa Had Given Me A Lot More
He Had Given Me The Look On Widow Jensen's Face
He Had Given Me The Radiant Smiles Of Her Three Children
For The Rest Of My Life
Whenever I Saw Any Of The Jensens Or Split A Block Of Wood
I Remembered
Remembering Brought Back That Same Joy I Felt Riding Home Beside Pa That Night

Pa Had Given Me Much More Than A Rifle That Night
He Had Given Me The Best Christmas Of My Life

Written By Rian B. Anderson

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