The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.
Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. George handed the stranger a Thermos bottle filled with hot stew.
Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old ’53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. “Mister can you help me!” said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.”
George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. ‘You ain’t going in this thing,’ George said as he went to the office wall, and got the keys to his old truck, drove the truck around where the couple was waiting. “Here, take my truck,” he said. “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.”
George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. “Glad I gave ‘em the truck, their tires were shot too. That ‘ol truck has brand new ……..” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone.
Then he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Please help me.”
George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. “Something for pain” George thought. All he had were the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.”
The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash! Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.
“That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.
The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop. “We got one too many in here now.”
He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all I got. Now put that pee shooter away.”
George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man who released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. “I’m not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week.”
George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. “Chuck! You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.
“ Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.
Chuck answered him, “I don’t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.”
The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, ‘Why?’
Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas boy … and you too, George, and thanks for everything.”
George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. His wife Martha said the big diamond ring would come in handy some day. George gave it to the young man.
George reached into the box again and picked up a toy airplane for the young man’s son, and refused to accept the $150 that the young man returned to buy Christmas dinner with. Before the young man left, he had a job waiting for him — the day after Christmas.
George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where’d you come from? I thought you left?”
“I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?”
“Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn’t see what all the bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was gettin’ a little chubby.”
The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder. ‘But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”
The stranger moved toward the door. George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.
“You see, George … it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”George fell to his knees and replied, “Happy Birthday, Lord.”