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Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Fifty-Dollar Christmas

Joel D. Amos is a Los Angeles-based writer, and the Senior Entertainment Editor here at SheKnows. He has interviewed numerous celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Katherine Heigl, Rachel McAdams, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaw...

Chicken Soup for the soul exclusive

Chicken Soup for the Soul is getting into the Christmas spirit and has given us an exclusive peek into their new holiday-themed book, Christmas Magic.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic

This time out for our Chicken Soup for the Soul exclusive, Bridget Colern authors the inspirational tale that is sure to not only get you in the Christmas spirit, but also move you emotionally! It is with great pleasure that we present the first chapter of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.

The Fifty-Dollar Christmas

"Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns," author unknown.

I quit my job in September believing I had a better one lined up. The better one fell through. It was a week before Christmas and I was still unemployed. I was a single mother. A series of temporary jobs had enabled me to keep the rent current and put groceries on the table, but not much else.

My daughter Leslie was in junior high so one morning, at breakfast, I was a bit taken aback when she blurted out, "Mom, I know money is really tight because you don't have a job. So it's okay if you can't get me anything for Christmas. Maybe you'll have a job by my birthday and we can plan something really special for that."

"Thank you, honey, that's a great idea," I said as I hugged her. Then I quickly gathered up dishes to take over to the sink so she would not see the tears welling up in my eyes. I regained my composure adequately enough to get her off to school, but the minute she was out the door a flood of tears overwhelmed me.

"Any kid with that good an attitude deserves a nice Christmas!" I shouted, banging the arm of the sofa with my fist. "Oh Lord, if I just had fifty extra dollars I could get her a few presents," I squeaked as my tears began to subside.

That evening Leslie and I drove to church. She ran off to her youth group meeting, while I went into the chapel where the adult service was being held. Halfway across the foyer I decided I was not in the mood for any "isn't it all so joyful" messages. I reversed my direction and headed back outside. My friend Jodie was entering through the same doorway. Grabbing my arm, she said, "Hey, where are you going?"

"Home," I curtly responded.

"Why?" she asked, naturally enough.

"Because I don't feel like hearing how wonderful Christmas is," I replied.

"I know what you mean," she sympathized. "I'm not sure I do either, but that probably suggests that we both need to be here. Tell you what, why don't you stay and sit with me? We can hide in the back of the balcony and hate Christmas together without anybody seeing us." Putting it that way made the prospect of staying sound kind of fun. Like two little girls conspiring to do something naughty in Sunday school. Linking arms we headed up the stairs.

As I listened to Bible verses that told the story of our Savior's birth my anger and resentment began to slip away. Focusing on the message of good news announced by angels on that long ago night comforted me. It reminded me that with or without packages under the tree, Christmas is a joyful, hopeful time, full of promise. I was glad Jodie had talked me into staying.

As I reached for my jacket, Jodie took my arm. "I want you to have this," she said as she handed me a folded piece of paper. "But you can't use it to pay bills. You have to spend it on gifts for your daughter."

I unfolded a fifty-dollar check. The significance of the amount humbled me. I felt tears begin to well up again. I had not told Jodie anything about my angry prayer that morning. I was amazed by the way God was answering that prayer, awestruck that the silly desires of my heart mattered to Him.

"I don't know when I will be able to pay you back," I stammered.

"I don't expect you to pay me back," she responded. "When you get on your feet, do the same thing for someone else, that's all."

"I can do that!" I exclaimed. "Thank you so much," I choked out.

Jodie put her arm around me as we silently exited the balcony. I hugged her when we got outside and thanked her again as we parted. The uplifting service and Jodie's timely generosity had removed a heavy burden from my heart. I had a renewed sense of joyful expectation.

On Christmas Eve a cardboard box was left on my doorstep. It contained a large turkey and all the trimmings for a lavish dinner, with the fixings for breakfast, lunch, and dessert thrown in. Leslie and I gasped in amazement as we pulled item after item from the carton.

When it was empty the entire surface of our dining table was covered with food.

"Where are we going to put it all?" Leslie questioned.

"These perishable items will go bad before we can possibly finish them," I said.

"I don't think this turkey will fit in our freezer," she exclaimed.

As I looked into her distressed face, our eyes met. In that brief exchange we both knew what to do. Simultaneously and in almost the same voice we said, "Let's give it away!"

We knew of a larger family that was also struggling with the hardship of an unemployed parent. So we repacked the carton. We added a few things from our own pantry and a parcel of candy that had been given to us the day before.

"I have an idea," Leslie said over her shoulder as she dashed off to her bedroom. She came back with a couple of stuffed animals, some action figures, and a game.

"For the kids," she said, placing them on top of the groceries.

We covered the bulging package with Saran Wrap and taped multicolored bows all over it. Then balancing it precariously between us, we loaded it into the car and deposited it on another doorstep.

"Drive down the street a little way and wait for me," Leslie pleaded.

A few minutes later she jumped in beside me, gasping for breath. "It was great! I rang the doorbell and ran like crazy."

We laughed all the way home as we rehashed "the great food basket caper." When our laughter was spent, we made some hot cocoa. As we drank it, we talked about how rich we felt giving all that food away. Eventually Leslie went off to bed.

I arranged my meager stash of colorful packages under the artificial tree that had seemed so bedraggled the week before. How lovely it looked to me now! Then I filled Leslie's stocking with the "goodies" my parents had given me a few days earlier for that purpose. Mom had neatly wrapped each trinket, refusing to give me even a tiny hint of what they contained. "Because," she explained, "Christmas should be a time of wonder, even for grown-ups!"

How right you are, Mom! How very right you are!

Read on for more Chicken Soup for the Soul exclusives on SheKnows!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Charmed Charm Bracelet
Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Miracles
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

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