Though it is past the official holiday, I am of the opinion that Christmas--or rather it's spirit--is meant to be with us each and every day throughout the year. It's wonder, its miracles, its gifts found in the gratitude in our hearts.
So, I'd like to share a short story I wrote some years ago for a newspaper column that I did weekly, long ago in another life...
Maybe it's that I'm getting on in years. Maybe I've had enough of roping, delivering calves, and branding to last three lifetimes. Still, I know nothing else. My life revolves around being a cattle driver.
Maybe I should just accept that fact and stop my bellyachin'.
I pulled open the door to the one room cabin that had stood the test of time and seasons of driving cattle from higher ground to feed.
Stomping the snow from my boots, I peered through the dark with only a single flashlight to search for the kerosene lamps. I fumbled in my pocket, my bones cramping from the cold and found a small box of matches. With a couple of tries, I struck the match against the wood table and the room illuminated with a great light. For reasons I could not explain my hand shook and I became aware that I was not alone.
The flashlight dropped from my grasp, rolling across the uneven floor. Squinting through my ancient eyes, a startled sound issued from my throat as my gaze lit on a shadowy figure poised quietly in the corner.
Unaware of the match burning still between my fingers, I held the flame higher, uncertain why the heat had not seemed to affect my calloused fingertips. "Who is it? This is private property friend. How'd you get here?"
"I was lost and cold," a voice stated quietly.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered the passage my mother used to read on Christmas Day. "And you gave us clothes to wear," I whispered in a seemingly automated response. What was happening?
" I was hungry," the voice spoke.
I frowned realizing I was no longer afraid, urged only by something inside me to
follow along with the words that flowed back into my memory. "And you gave me food."
"I was thirsty."
"And you gave me drink." I nodded, though I didn't truly understand. My heart eased at the strange connection I felt to the intruder. "Are you an angel?" I asked cautiously, bending to light the wick of the lamp. Turning up the flame, I glanced back at the corner where I'd seen the figure. I grabbed the table to steady myself as fear and then curiosity crept over me. Holding the lamp high, I moved around the table inching my way to the corner. There on the floor was nothing but a wadded up wool blanket.
"Our car broke down. I have nothing to give you, but if you could let us rest here, I would appreciate it. My wife, you see is about to have our child. We're too far from the next town and we've no where else to go."
I ushered the man and his wife in and starting a warm fire, melted snow in a heavy cast iron kettle. I had only one cup, but the couple shared a bit of soup and nibbled on some day old bread.
When it was her time, the young man was at her side providing encouragement and I, who had up to now felt my life's work had had no real purpose, sat poised to help this woman deliver her first child.
With the first cry of the boy child, I wept along with his parents for the miracle
"What's your name?" the mother asked.
"Then his name shall me Aaron." The woman smiled up at her husband, who leaned down to place a tender kiss on the babe's head.
"Aaron, it is," he said with tears still fresh on his cheeks.
Near the herd stood the silhouette of a man cloaked in a robe. He carried a staff at his side. As clear as though standing at my side, I heard the voice. " What you do for the least of them, you do unto me."
A tear trickled down my cheek. Though it had taken many years, it was this night that I realized mt humble, solitary life had true purpose.