Todd finally surrendered to several boxes of off-brand Legos, knowing his son would be disappointed, maybe even insulted by them. It was better than the off-brand Barbies, at least.
He was deep in thought about the fortunate folks who had purchased and wrapped their presents weeks in advance, jealousy and resentment filling his heart—when he got a flat tire on the interstate.
Great. Just what this day needed to feel merry and bright. Another $500 out the window to get new tires. His body ached as he struggled to put on the spare in the cold. His body was working against him—another flare-up had kept him in bed during the shopping season and it was only through sheer determination to keep Christmas alive for his son that he was kneeling on the icy road now.
His mother would be dropping the boy off soon for his annual visitation. Todd wished he could spend more time with his son, but his health was waning and it was all he could do just to take care of himself. The annual Christmas visit had become the one day worth living the rest for.
The sun was starting to fade as he pulled into the driveway. He didn’t have any wrapping paper or tape—his last thoughts as he summoned all his energy to get inside and into bed.
The doorbell rang.
Todd rubbed his eyes, disoriented, unsure of the time—or day.
As he rolled out of bed and walked to the front door, he noticed his son asleep on the couch. He had no recollection of the boy getting dropped off, but was relieved he was there. And thankful for his ex who must have tucked their son in, trusting Todd would be able to parent by morning.
There were two clean-cut, smiling young men at the door, too happy for a 6 AM visit. They better not be selling anything, Todd thought as he pushed a hand through his hair and opened the door.
“Merry Christmas, sir! We have been walking through the neighborhood offering our assistance. Is there anything we can do to help make your Christmas special?” they pitched.
Todd recognized they were LDS missionaries based on how they were dressed; their nametags confirmed it. He considered closing the door and crawling back in bed for a few more precious minutes of sleep. Then he remembered the gifts in his truck—still unwrapped.
“Dad?” a small voice called out. The boy was awake. It was Christmas. Nothing was ready.
Shame and frustration welled up as Todd fought to stay calm. One holiday a year and he was messing it up. Todd looked at the missionaries. He knew they could be helpful; Todd grew up in the church, only turning away a decade ago when his health became his number one focus. An idol, perhaps.
“Guys, I do need your help,” Todd whispered, “My son is waking up and I haven’t wrapped his presents. They’re in the back of my truck. It’s open.”
The two men smiled and replied, “Go make breakfast for your son. We will take care of the rest!”
Todd looked up to the sky and muttered, “I hope that works,” and turned back inside to find something worth eating.
As his son grinned, excited to see him, Todd’s fears and short-comings faded. They would get through this day. It would be ok. They found some pancake mix and cookie cutters in the cupboard, and proceeded to make a Christmas-themed breakfast. Nothing Martha Stewart would approve of, but they were laughing and munching as if Santa was their chef.
The doorbell rang.
Before Todd could stop him, his son ran to the front door and yanked it open.
No one was there.
“Dad? We got a letter from Santa! Read it to me!!” a red envelope in his hands, a look of marvel on his face.
Todd reached for the envelope, confused about where his helpers went with the presents.
“I couldn’t find your chimney or your tree so I had to bury your gifts outside. I know how much you like adventures! Use this map and a shovel to find your presents! Merry Christmas! Love Santa.”
The boy grabbed the letter from Todd’s hands and studied the hand-drawn map. He grabbed the shovel on the porch and started counting paces, intent on finding Christmas.
Todd, skeptical, grabbed their coats and prepared himself for any number of ways this could end.
“I think I found something, dad!!”
Sure enough, with magic in his eyes the boy unearthed a gift. The off-brand toy suddenly very special.
Glee overtaking him, the little boy whooped and yelled as he ran from spot to spot in the yard, digging up toy after toy. Todd finally let himself smile, warmth filling that scared spot in his heart.
“Son, this is great! Let’s go inside now and play with your new toys!” Todd was getting cold and had counted that all the gifts has been uncovered.
“There’s one more X, Dad! Hold on! I think I found it! I think it’s for you!”
Todd’s son ran to him, holding another envelope, “It says ‘For your dad’!”
He opened the envelope and couldn’t believe what was inside. Five crisp one hundred dollar bills and a note that said, “Your heavenly father wants to spend every day of the year with you, too—but he will settle for just today.”
Tears welled up in Todd’s eyes as he and his son carried the gifts inside. He loved the idea of a God intent on being with him, even if just for a moment. He understood the pain a dad would endure to be with his son. He knew he was not alone in his struggle.
A week later Todd called the local LDS church, wanting to thank them for their generosity. He was connected to the Mission President.
“Thank you for sending those missionaries out to my house on Christmas day. I think their names were Mike and Gabe. They really made Christmas for me and my son. The $500. Wow. Thank you,” Todd blurted, the memory still giving him strength.
“We do appreciate these kinds of reports, but I think there’s been some sort of mistake. We do have a team named Mike and Gabe, but they flew home to Alaska on Christmas Eve. I took them to the airport myself. And they definitely didn’t have $500 to spare! I really want to hear more about the two angels who showed up on your doorstep on Christmas.”
Todd and the Mission President got acquainted, talking about the miracles that occur every day, but seem so obvious on Christmas. They laughed and cried for a long time. Todd realized again that he wasn’t alone. He had been given a friend and a support network by those mysterious visitors. He would be able to get through another year.
Story by Angela. This story may be shared around your Christmas Tree during the holidays. Read it out loud, and tell me how it went!