It would become Sarah’s first Christmas since the divorce.
“I’m really not looking forward to this,” she whispered to herself as Christmas Eve had officially started.
Sarah had always been a bit reserved. The trials and tribulations of a separation and divorce only served to demolish whatever self-confidence was left.
After sitting at home and trying to forget the past, she sighed and decided that home alone was not going to work tonight.
“I’ve got to get out of here for a while,” she declared as she hopped up off the sofa and headed for the coat closet.
She headed out down the sidewalk of the relatively quiet neighborhood where she lived.
Strolling down to the town center area, she passed several people out taking in the cool night air.
“Merry Christmas!” one passing couple greeted in unison.
“Merry Christmas to you too,” she nodded in a low muffled voice.
“I only wish it was going to be a Merry Christmas for me,” she said to herself.
Sarah continued down the streetlight illuminated sidewalk.
A few minutes passed and a young boy and girl, probably twelve or thirteen, stopped and asked her if she had seen their missing dog.
“He’s a small dog, white with brown spots, and he got loose a few minutes ago,” the young boy explained as the young girl was trying hard not to cry. “Can you help us look for him?” the young girl asked.
“No, I haven’t seen any lost dogs tonight. I can’t help you look for him. Sorry,” Sarah said as she continued on her way.
The center of the small village like neighborhood housed a park, complete with lights strung high and a fifteen foot Christmas tree.
She found a park bench facing the decorated tree and sat down.
A few minutes passed and an older man dressed like Santa Claus stopped in front of her.
“May I sit down for a moment?” he asked. “These boots are killing me. I have been at the toy store down the street today for the last several hours. Must have been two hundred boys and girls who were telling me what they want for Christmas. Children always amaze me.”
“Sure, why not. Have a seat,” she said with a brief almost fake smile on her face.
“I hope you are enjoying this Christmas Eve,” he said.
“It is, well, ok,” she replied.
“Just ok?” he probed.
She shrugged her shoulder and sat there quietly for several moments.
“Perhaps you have a reason that it is just ok and not a wonderful evening?” he asked.
“I guess I am a bit down,” she hesitated, “and I don’t think I feel like talking about it.”
“Ah,” he replied. “I see ...”
Silence ensued for a minute or two before Sarah spoke up.
“It’s just a difficult time for me,” she offered, “just recently divorced, first Christmas alone in a long time, no children or anyone to share it with.” She sighed, “and the list goes on.”
He nodded as if to agree.
“I don’t expect you to understand,” she said in a defensive tone.
“It sounds like you do have reasons to be down and depressed,” he agreed. “I have been there and …”
“I really must be going,” Sarah interrupted as she stood up.
“Go if you must, but may I offer you the one thing that helped me when the times were the darkest?” he asked.
She started to walk away.
“In those moments when you are helping someone else, it is almost impossible to be down and out,” he said in a loud voice that she could hear as she moved further away.
She paused for a moment, looked back at him, and then continued forward at a faster pace.
She soon reached the other end of town center, found another park bench, and sat down.
She was startled by a loud “thud” sound a few feet in front of her. At first she thought someone threw a rock near her but on closer inspection see saw a bird flailing around on the ground.
She approached the bird slowly and noticed that a piece of a Styrofoam cup had become stuck on one leg and wing and was preventing the bird from flying.
After a minute or so of following the bird around on the ground she was able to catch it and remove the Styrofoam, freeing the bird. The bird immediately flew away.
“Bye bye little birdie,” Sarah smiled as the bird flew up into the dark sky. For the first time in recent memory, she felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone shouting “Merry Christmas” at regular intervals. The sound grew closer and closer.
“Hello again,” she said, as she recognized the source of the Christmas greetings, the Santa Claus person from earlier in the evening.
“Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Merry Christmas to you,” he proclaimed once more.
“How has your Christmas Eve been going?” he asked.
Sarah told him about the bird and what had happened.
“That poor bird must have been terrified, being defenseless and not knowing what was going to happen next,” he concluded.
“Glad I was here and able to help,” Sarah replied with a smile.
“So, your night has been good so far?” he asked.
She thought for a moment.
“Yes, I would say it has been a good evening. It didn’t start out that way though,” she explained.
She paused for a moment.
“I guess you could say it took a small bird and a piece of styrofoam to show me something important,” she realized.
“Seems to me like the bird removed the Styrofoam in your mind that has been holding you back too,” the jovial yet serious Santa Claus replied.
“Yes, I think you are right,” she smiled.
Off in the distance Sarah noticed two small figures crossing the street shouting something.
“I have got to go,” she said to the energetic Santa.
“What’s the hurry?” he asked with a wink as if he already knew the answer.
“Look over there,” she pointed at the two figures.
“Those two kids are hunting for their lost dog,” she explained. “I saw them earlier tonight. I have got to go help them find their dog.”
“I am sure with your help their dog will be found. Thanks for helping them,” he offered as Sarah walked away.
A few moments later she stopped and turned around.
“And thank you for the gift of a wonderful Christmas Eve,” she said with the biggest smile she has had in a long time.