The spirit of Christmas is alive and well. Or so it seems on this cold fateful eve before the big day. Shoppers scurried about trying to finish last minute holiday shopping. Except for one nice but lonely young woman.
Darla sat isolated, bundled up, on the park bench waiting for the next bus. She was a gentle and kind-hearted woman with an honest and generous spirit. With only a few dollars to spend, she had no luck trying to find a suitable and affordable gift for her seven-year-old daughter Amy.
“Just an hour left before the stores close for Christmas Eve,” she thought, looking at her watch.
As darkness descended upon the day, street lamps and light from nearby stores strained to illuminate the cold evening.
An older man wearing a heavy coat and carrying two large shopping bags approached and sat down on the bench.
“Getting cold,” he said as he looked in Darla’s direction.
“Yeah, getting dark too. Looks like you’ve been shopping,” she said, glancing at the two almost filled red shopping bags.
“Gifts, gifts, gifts … seems like that’s what Christmas is coming to mean these days,” he said with a chuckle.
Noticing she had no shopping bags, he asked, “do you have any shopping left to do?”
She responded, “yes … I can’t seem to find a present for my little girl, Amy.”
“Well, what does she like?” he asked.
“Oh, toys, dolls, pretty things.” She paused a moment and managed a smile.
She offered an additional suggestion, “… and there is this music box that she always looks at through one of the store windows, but it’s too expensive. I’ve only got a few dollars.”
“Music box, hummm …” the old man thought out loud.
He reached into one of his bags and pulled out a white gift box.
“I also know someone who likes music boxes,” he said as he opened the carton and pulled out a beautiful wood carved music box. As he opened the brass hinged wooden top, music played, and a tiny painted ceramic ballerina danced inside.
“It’s really beautiful,” Darla said, with regret and disappointment that she couldn’t afford something like that for Amy.
“Why don’t you get one of these for your little girl?” he suggested.
“Oh, I’m afraid I don’t have anywhere near that much money,” she half-heartedly laughed, as she saw the price sticker on the top of the box.
“How much do you have?” he inquired.
“Only about seven dollars and a few pennies,” she sighed. “I’m just barely able to make ends meet. This is all I have.”
Darla looked at her hand as the sparkle of her ring caught her eye. She had an idea.
“Maybe I could sell my ring. It must be worth something,” she said, holding her hand out and showing it to the old man.
“Nice ring,” he said, “how long have you had it?”
“Since I was sixteen …” she paused. “I would really miss it though. Sentimental I guess.”
Then she thought about the smile and happiness that a pretty music box would bring to Amy. “But it would make her so happy.”
“The stores will be closing soon. I don’t think you have enough time to find someone to sell the ring to,” the old man observed.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she sighed and paused. “You wouldn’t want to trade the music box you bought for my ring, seven dollars and a few pennies, would you?” she asked shyly.
“Well …” he thought for a moment.
He put the music box back in its carton and handed it to Darla.
“OK,” he agreed, confidently nodding his head yes.
Darla took off her ring and gave it to the old man. She reached in her purse, found the seven dollars and the few pennies and handed him the money.
“Thank you,” she said as she smiled excitedly.
“I hope that music box brings your little girl a lot of joy,” he said sincerely.
“I know she will love it. I only wish I wasn’t so poor so I could give her lots of nice things,” she commented.
The old man took a deep breath.
“Poor? Someone like you, with such a kind and generous heart. Poor? Someone who is willing to give up all her money and a cherished ring to bring happiness to someone else? Poor? No, Darla, you are not poor.”
“Thanks,” she said, humbly looking down.
A few moments passed.
“Well, I must be moving on,” the old man said as he stood up.
“Oh Miss, here’s your seven dollars, your few pennies, and your ring back.”
“I don’t understand … why are you giving me my money and my ring back?” Darla asked.
“Giving is what Christmas is all about,” he smiled. “Merry Christmas,” the stranger said as he turned and quickly walked away into the night’s darkness.
Darla paused a moment to reflect and then smiled, realizing it was going to be a good Christmas after all.