Pleasanton Express Christmas Story Contest Entries

The Real Brush Country Christmas Story

WILDA DE LA CRUZ

“What does Christmas mean to you?” asked the Sunday School teacher in the little country church on Main Street in our small town. The primary school classmates started raising their hands to answer the question.

“It means Santa Claus and gifts of neat toys I put on my Christmas list,” shouted out Michael, a very out-going son of a school teacher in our town.

“It means all kinds of gifts under our Christmas tree with only blue lights this year,” added Jason, who lived on a big farm nearby.

Other students chimed in until all had spoken except one little girl named Maria. She was new to the community and to the church. Many said her family just came to the church to see if they could get some help for Christ- mas as there were seven in the family. Maria finally spoke up in broken English and said that she and her brothers and sisters weren’t to expect anything for Christmas this year since nobody in her family had a job or any money to buy the things they needed to make tamales, which was the one thing the family did every December so that they could share with their big family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She also said that they didn’t believe in Santa Claus because he never brought them any toys ever. Once she spoke up and told her story, the other kids began feeling sorry for her and saying she didn’t know what she was talking about. The teacher began to direct the class into the real meaning of Christmas, which she explained is “LOVE”. She proceeded to read the Christmas story from the

Bible in the gospels of Luke and Matthew about the baby Jesus being born in a barn and was laid in the cattle trough so that he had a soft bed on the hay. The angels told the shepherds about the baby, and they went to Bethlehem to see newborn baby Jesus who was to be the Messiah or Savior of the world. The children heard the story again this year but still weren’t convinced that there’s no Santa Claus or that the real meaning of Christmas is “LOVE” according to the Sunday

School teacher, who finally told the class that a special offering would be taken in the church service to be given to Maria’s family so that they could enjoy their usual Christmas celebration of tamales.

“That is showing love at Christmas, isn’t it?” asked Michael.

“Well, yes it is!”, answered the teacher. “God will be pleased with us for helping others.”

When the offering was taken during the service, all the fellow students showed their love by giving what they could and asled their families to give willingly to help make Christmas happy for Maria’s family. It so happened that the offering was even more than was needed for their family celebration and some small gifts for the children.

At the end of the service, the announcement was given that the whole congregation was invited to have tamales made by Maria’s family at the church for lunch after the Sunday services next Sunday, which would be for the New Year’s celebration. The tamales were enjoyed by all, and everyone felt the “LOVE” of Christmas again because of the kindness being shown by God’s people in our small-town church.

Second Chances at Christmas

KIMBERLY L. VILLALVA

Jason jumped into his filing project just as he had been doing for the past two weeks at Art House. I’m here to make sure that you don’t make another mistake. Don’t let me down. Margie’s words from his first day still stung.

He realized Margie hadn’t come out of her office to look over his shoulder or to peer closely at his eyes to see if she could tell that he was using again. He knocked on her door and found her staring out the window. The office was drafty so he pulled the curtains closed to try to lessen the chill on her. “I finished the filing. What else do I have to do today?”

“Nothing. You can leave early if you want.”

“I can’t drive while I’m in recovery and my mom won’t be here for another hour so I might as well do something. You don’t want me getting back into trouble, do you?”

Margie looked at him. “If that’s what you want to do, Jason, I’m not going to stop you. Art House is struggling to keep its doors open and I don’t have time to worry about some kid who’s willing to throw his whole life away just to feel good.”

“You think that’s why I did what I did? Just to feel good? You don’t know anything about me.” He stormed back to the hallway.

“You never told me why you started using.”

He turned to face her. “Why should I? You’re just like everyone else. You heard ‘drugs’ and treated me differently from day one.”

“I’d really like to know how a kid like you can find himself losing his football scholarship and working in this program over Christmas break.” She pulled a sweater from the back of her chair and tossed it around her shoulders.

“I never wanted to get into drugs. But last season I dislocated my shoulder, had surgery, the whole thing. The pain didn’t let up and I had to get back to practice or I’d lose my spot on the team. Jason shifted uneasily. “When my doc wouldn’t give me pain meds any more, I found ways to get them from friends whose parents had them. A few months ago I went in for detox and counselling. And they sent me to work here to distract me from thinking about getting drugs since I still have some pain.”

Margie stared at him. “I didn’t realize, Jason, and I’m sorry. How about we keep you busy with planning our Annual Christmas Party.”

“Just to keep me out of trouble?”

“Not just that. You have a creative eye, I’ve seen it.”

************

When day of the Christmas Party arrived, Art House was bursting with families making holiday art projects together. Jason was refilling one of the paint colors when Margie motioned him to her office. “Can you explain this to me?” She pointed towards her window, newly sealed and now keeping the room much warmer than it had been.

Jason shrugged, “I came in with another volunteer to fix it this past weekend. You do a lot of good here and shouldn’t have to freeze while you help others.”

“Jason, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. And this party. You did more for those families than I ever thought you could.” Her eyes dropped to the floor, “I’m ashamed at how I treated you. Your addiction isn’t something that defines you or your abilities. You came here ready to work and I made things difficult. Give me another chance to be the kind of trusting and encouraging supervisor you need.” Margie said.

“Me give you a second chance? You gave me the chance to really connect with those hurting families. Planning this party and spending time with them has opened my eyes to how I have been treating them differently, even though we share so many similar struggles.”

Margie laughed, “Maybe we both needed a second chance this Christmas. There’s no better gift we can give another than to see them through eyes that are open to possibilities rather than judgements.”

“You’ve given me the chance to help them see possibilities too. That’s the best gift I could have gotten this Christmas, Margie, and I don’t plan to waste it.” Jason grinned, “Could I continue here after my program?”

Margie nodded. “Every one of us is a masterpiece, we just have to allow love to come through.”

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