The apartment was small and tired, but at least Jenna had managed to keep a roof over their heads. But now, two days before Christmas, she knew providing presents for her ten-year-old son Nathan was going to be impossible. She glanced around the room, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. How had it come to this? First, the loss of her husband, then the loss of her job, piles of medical bills, and the final blow: foreclosure. Jenna shook her head. She never realized how quickly life’s roller coaster could plummet out of control. She collapsed at the little kitchen table, and fingered a scrap of paper. It was Nathan’s Christmas list. His desires were so simple: a kite, some games, and a baseball glove. She dropped her head down on her arms and tried to cry quietly, so Nathan wouldn’t hear.
Suddenly his arms were around her. “Don’t cry Mama,” he said. “It’s okay. I understand. I’m all grown up now, and I don’t need all that Christmas stuff.” He took his wish list out of her hand, tore it up and threw it away.
Jenna pulled him onto her lap.
Nathan wiped the tears off her face. “Mama, we can still have eggnog and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, right?”
Jenna nodded, hugging him close. It was a ritual handed down in their family, the reading of the traditional poem accompanied by gingerbread and what her husband had dubbed “The Nighty-night Nog”.
“Of course, Nathan! We’ll always be able to have that.” She buried her face in his hair, but abruptly jerked her head up. What was that noise? She slid Nathan off her lap and motioned for him to stay put. Jenna crept toward the front window and peeked through the blinds, but saw nothing amiss. She unlocked the front door, eased it open a crack and peered out. Everything looked normal. She started to close the door but something caught on the bottom.
It was a small, yellowed envelope. She picked it up and flipped it over. It was completely blank. Was it really intended for her? After all, they had just moved in. They hadn’t met many neighbors yet, except for newly widowed Anna Smith, a young woman whose circumstances were even worse than their own. She had a son Nathan’s age and a new baby. Jenna closed the door and lifted the flap on the envelope. She pulled out a Christmas card with a picture of a starry night on the front. As Jenna opened the card, money fell out!
Her hands shaking, Jenna scooped up the bills and counted them. One, two, three, four! Two hundred dollars! It was a true Christmas miracle! Where had it come from? Who put it there? Why? Still trembling, she read the message inside: Someday, when you can, be someone else’s miracle.
Jenna threw open the door and ran outside, hoping to catch her benefactor, but she was greeted by nothing but swirling snow. Shivering and choking back sobs, she ran back inside and laid the money on the table. Now Nathan would have a Christmas! She could buy gifts to put under the tree, and some to put in his stocking. Excitedly she said to him: “Look! It’s a miracle! A real one!”
Nathan gazed, wide-eyed, at the four bills. He picked up the card. “Be someone else’s miracle…” he spoke the words slowly, under his breath.
“Yes! Nathan, someday we’ll return the favor. I promise you that!”
Nathan continued to stare at the card. “What about now?” he whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“Mrs. Smith,” he said simply. “She needs a miracle too.”
Jenna’s eyes welled with tears. Nathan was right. One hundred dollars was more than enough for the two of them. She was ashamed she hadn’t thought of it herself.
She replaced two bills in the card, slipped it back in the envelope and taped the flap down. She handed it to Nathan. “Shall we sneak over there and slide it under her door?”
He grinned, bouncing up and down. “Yes!”
After they returned, laughing harder than they had in a very long time, Nathan sat down to write out a new Christmas list. Jenna sat beside him. She picked up a pencil and wrote a personal ending to the poem she would read on Christmas Eve – and for many Christmas Eves to come:
“…and laying his finger aside of his nose,
With these final words, up the chimney he rose:
‘Be someone else’s miracle,
And never let them know….’”
EPIC Award Finalist Violet Rightmire (Debra Webb Rogers) is the author of two novels: Dancing in Time, a time-travel romance, and A Windfall Christmas, an inspiration romance. Visit her website: http://debrawebbrogers.com/