===== ☆ =============================================== ☆ No. 4 ===
☆☆ << 心に響く話 >>
☆★☆ -- なにかが見えてくる --
☆★★☆ by Ｍａｔ
- ☆☆☆☆☆ --------------------------------------- 2010/04/06 ☆ --
** 心に響く話 ** (from Chicken Soup Newsletter)
The Unexpected Gift
By W. W. Meade
First the snow came lightly. I watched it out of the window, the
flakes flying in the wind the bus made as it sped from Cincinnati,
where we lived, to Canton, Ohio, where we were going to spend
Christmas with my uncle and cousins. My brother and I were traveling
alone because our parents were on the way from Pittsburgh, where they
had gone to take care of things after my grandmother died. It was a
family emergency and though my mother did not like the idea of
leaving us with her best friend, or having us travel alone, she did
not have much choice.
Soon we would all be together in my uncle's house playing the rowdy
games and eating too many sugar cookies, which my Aunt Alice made in
the shape of snowmen. They always had little stubby hands and feet
too. For some reason I liked to eat the feet first. My brother
always ate the cherry nose.
I had the window seat for this leg of the trip. My mother always
made us trade off to avoid fighting about it and we did that even
when we were by ourselves. There was a very big woman sitting across
from us who talked to us at the last stop. She thought we were young
to be traveling alone and she bought us each a doughnut even though
she seemed poor. Her name, she said, was Mrs. Margaret Mills and her
husband was dead. I don't know why she told us that.
Before long the snow got heavier and heavier and the bus began to
slow down. It slowed and slowed and before long it was just kind of
crawling along and the world outside had turned completely white. I
heard the driver talking on his radio about what we should do. So I
woke up my brother in case we were about to hit a snowdrift and be
boarded by bandits. He always hoped for some big adventure that just
never seemed to come our way. Now might be his chance, I thought.
The other passengers began to stir about and go stand in line for the
bathroom and make each other nervous. I gave my brother my seat and
he kept his face plastered to the glass.
"Look, look," he would say every once in awhile. "More snow. More
It was about an hour later that we eased into a gas station that had
a little restaurant shaped like a railroad car attached to it. We
all bundled up as best we could, pulled our hats down over our ears
and ran for shelter. The wind was making a very weird sound...like a
bird screeching. Finally we were all inside and the bus driver told
us we were likely to have to spend the night here and might make it
out in the morning if the storm stopped and the plows came through.
Now I was frightened and my brother was crying. I told him we would
be all right and the weird woman took us to the counter and ordered
hot chocolate. My mother had pinned a card inside my coat pocket -
she pinned it there because I was always losing things I needed, like
mittens - with my uncle's name, address and phone number.
While we were having hot chocolate, the bus driver asked us if we had
a phone number for whoever was going to meet us and I gave him the
People were very upset. After all, we were about to spend Christmas
with a handful of strangers and no one wanted to do that. All the
joy and anticipation of being with family and friends was replaced by
disappointment and sadness. We were a sorry lot. Some people drank
coffee and some ate chicken salad sandwiches and some just sat
staring at their folded hands.
I wanted to talk to my parents, and just as I had that thought, the
bus driver called me and I went to the phone. He had my aunt on the
line. My parents were out at church with my cousins and Aunt Alice
was very calm about our situation. She said we would be all right
and that we should do what the bus driver said. And that we should
not leave the place where we were because my family would come get us
in the morning when the roads were plowed.
That made me feel a lot better. But my brother was hard to console.
He wanted to be home, to be singing carols while Aunt Alice played
the piano, to be having the kind of Christmas Eve we loved. I didn't
know what to do to help him and it was beginning to make me mad that
he was crying all the time.
Then a strange thing happened. People began to talk to each other
and to us. And then they began to laugh and tell stories about their
families and where they'd been and where they were going. The man
who owned the restaurant turned on the lights of the Christmas tree
he had in the corner of the room. They were shaped like candles.
And together with the colored lights that bordered the big front
window, the room began to seem a little festive. I hoped it all
would cheer my brother up, but it did not.
"What are we going to do? I want to see Mama, I want to have cookies,
I want to sing the manger song with Aunt Alice, I...I..." and then
he would lean against me and cry some more.
The weird woman watched us from time to time. I thought she disliked
his sniveling as much as I did, but finally she came to the booth
where we were sitting by ourselves and said, "I believe I'll just
join you, if you don't mind."
She sat down before I could say anything and she took up quite a lot
of space doing it, too.
Then one of the strangest things I have ever seen happened. Her face,
which I thought was a little scary - she had a very big nose and
this huge neck - softened and gentled as she looked at my brother.
And then she began to sing. Out of her strange body came one of the
loveliest sounds I've ever heard. She put her arm around my brother
and pulled him close to her. And softly, very softly, she sang as
though singing just for us, "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the
little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head."
He looked up at her. I think he was startled at first to hear his
favorite carol sung to him by a strange woman in a snowbound bus stop.
But soon the sadness left his face. Soon he put his hand in hers.
And then they sang together, louder now, "The stars in the bright sky
looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay."
After that a young man unpacked his guitar and the bus driver pulled
out a harmonica, and before long, everyone was singing just about
every Christmas carol you ever heard in your life. We sang and drank
hot cocoa with marshmallows and ate cupcakes until people finally
settled down for the evening, huddled in the booths, sitting on the
floor, leaning against each other for comfort and support. And so we
spent Christmas Eve.
The roads were cleared by eleven the next morning and we said good-
bye to everyone on the bus. Our parents had called the restaurant
and were on their way to pick us up. The last person we saw was Mrs.
Mills. She hugged us and I thanked her. Then she bent over and
kissed us both on the forehead. "I'll never forget you two boys.
You were my Christmas present. That's the way I'll always think of
you." Then she got on the bus and I never saw her again.
Later that night, when we were all comfortable and warm before the
fire at Aunt Alice's, I asked my dad what the strange woman could
have meant. I'd told him the whole story, of course, except for the
part about getting mad at my brother for crying so much.
He said, "That's the thing about a true gift. You can only give it.
You never know how much it means to another person."
"But what was our gift, dad? We didn't give her a present or
"I don't have any way of knowing that. It might have been your cute
faces. It might have been that you liked her, or weren't afraid of
her because of the way she looked. Or it might have been that you
sang along with her in a strange place she never planned to be in.
Just be grateful that you had something to give that woman, something
she treasured and would remember. Make that a part of who you are
and that will be your gift to me."
And then Aunt Alice went to the piano and we, all of us, began our
annual caroling, the singing of songs together that I liked better
than almost anything in the world. But what I was thinking about
most that evening was Mrs. Margaret Mills and what a wonderful voice
she had. And as I thought about her, I missed her. Truly missed her.
And I hoped that wherever she was, she was singing for someone who
liked her as much as I did.
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