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Christmas Inspirational Christian

"The Wallet"

The afternoon rush hour was slower than usual, and as Tina’s mind raced with all that she had left to do before Christmas in two days, she found herself the recipient of a honking pickup truck riding her bumper. “Yeah, I’m moving,” she responded angrily. “Can’t wait a second then, can you?” Glaring at the driver who then passed her with a whoosh in the left-hand lane, she swore under her breath. “Season to be jolly – really?” Continuing her steady but slow trek to her exit, she saw the daylight dim and the dark settle upon the city. Up at dawn in the dark and home early evening in the dark. Was there even an ounce of light in her life anymore?

Her apartment was a block away now and Tina sighed heavily in remembrance of all she had left to do this day. She’d pay the sitter, make her son a quick dinner and then see if her mother could watch him again tonight so she might search the department stores for that expensive Dino Dinosaur toy Clay had been begging Santa to bring. All this yet to do, when her only desire was to crawl into her bed and get a good night’s sleep. ‘Oh well’, she moaned, such were the joys of single motherhood. No money, no sleep and work, work, work.

Mother came over begrudgingly saying she had a really bad headache and she hoped Clay might go to bed soon. Tina bathed and dressed him in his cute dinosaur pajamas and thanked her mom. Didn’t grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren? Her mom apparently had too many already and Clay the last one to arrive, probably had not made the grade lately. Digging out her keys and trudging through the gray slush that once was white snow, Tina’s eyes focused on a black blob near her car’s trunk. Kicking it with her foot, she realized it wasn’t trash. When she bent to examine it, she discovered it was a leather wallet. Tina picked it up timidly, and then looked around her. Who might have lost this, she wondered? One of her neighbors? No one was in sight. Unlocking her car and sitting still in the dark vehicle, she turned on the overhead light. Opening the wallet, she saw a driver’s license with a name she did not recognize, a few credit cards and then the cash. Removing the thick wad, Tina’s eyes grew enormous. What? There had to be hundreds here. She counted it then, looking around her and locking her car doors. Whoa! She counted it again. $500.00. $500.00!! Tina sat back and closed her eyes. What a windfall. This could totally make her son’s Christmas so much more thrilling! She could even pay her rent on time and buy that new coat she had eyed recently at the department store. This was a miracle she deserved. Opening her eyes and looking out her window again to see if anyone was around, she started her car. Shopping would not be a pain now. It was such a wonderful turn of fate. She was rich - for an evening anyway.

Seeing a nearby McDonalds drive through ahead, Tina made her way to it. Yes, a Big Mac was in order. Her favorite sandwich she rarely had an extra dime for. Opening the wallet to pay for the meal, she was surprised when the teenage girl at the drive-up, pay window smiled and said that the car ahead of her had already paid for her meal. What? “Oh, you know, that thing on the Christian radio,” the young girl said in a sing-song voice. “Bless someone unknown today! Make their Christmas!”

Tina’s eyes widened. “Someone already paid for this?”

“Yes,” the young girl repeated.  “Now, as they say on the radio program, pay it forward!”

Tina pulled ahead stunned and retrieved her food from a young man wearing braces. He was smiling broadly, apparently knowing she was the recipient of the previous car owner’s generosity, for he handed her an envelope with her food.   As she pulled over to eat the sandwich, Tina shook her head in disbelief.  The envelope had an invitation to a local church and wished her a Merry Christmas. “Wow! This certainly is my lucky day,” she said loudly to no one but the car’s interior. “Now for Dino Dinosaur”.

The Target parking lot was packed, and she took a deep breath before leaving her car. She had to brave the crowds for Clay and his Christmas. It was only once a year, and now she had the money to buy six Dino Dinosaurs if she chose. Heading into the back of the store where the toy section was located, Tina grimaced. There was one Dino left on the top shelf. As she searched for a clerk to help her retrieve it, she noticed a tall man reach for it. The clerk, who certainly looked unenthusiastic to reach up to the top shelf, shook his head at her, knowing that now he was not needed. The tall man had Dino now in his cart. But Tina was not deterred, replying authoritatively, “I’m sure you have another one of these back in your stockroom. Could you please check? My son has to have this dinosaur for Christmas! Has to!!”

The red vested clerk just shook his head and frowned saying, “Sorry, ma’am, it’s a popular item. That was the last one.”

Tina stared at the man who was walking to the checkout with the last Dino Dinosaur. Traipsing close behind him she exclaimed, “Sir! Sir, excuse me!” Tina saw the man turn to face her with a quizzical look on his face. “Sir, would you consider selling me that?”

The tall man was white haired, bearded and his dark eyes crinkled as he answered, “What young lady? You want to buy this from me? Why, I haven’t even paid for it yet?”

Tina blushed and put on her best smile. “Sir, my son is so sure Santa is bringing this to him. I’d pay you double once you purchase to have it!”

“Really?” The man stroked his beard and winked at her. “I’m told it is a popular toy so maybe triple would be better. Triple the price, yes, for that price I will sell it to you.”

Tina took a deep breath. Triple the price? Well, she now had the money so she could make the deal. “Ah, ok. I’ll meet you at the register. The two walked together and Tina watched the man pay for the toy and his other purchases. As they left the store and stood out front near the big red Target balls, the man handed Tina the bag with Dino in. As Tina began to dig out the money from the black wallet she had found, the elderly man laughed heartily and proclaimed, “Merry Christmas young lady! Consider this a gift from Santa to your son. My grandson will never miss this. I wish you and your son a blessed Christmas day! Remember the reason for the season, will you? The gift at Christmas God gave to us, we can never repay except to bless others.”

Tina stood with her mouth open, hanging onto the gift as if it were a precious gem. Really? He was giving this to her? Blinking as she watched him walk away, she grinned profusely. She had Dino. She also had not spent a dime to get him. What? What kind of generosity was this? The reason for the season? She hadn’t thought lately about any reason for this season except the Santa myth. Was there something more she should know about this Christmas season? She watched as the man walked to his car and unlocked it. The car was not a Cadillac or even an SUV, but a dented, black, old model Honda.  Looking down at the cement under her feet, Tina felt a tinge of regret in planning on using the black wallet’s money. Shaking her head to rid herself of the guilt, she found her vehicle and got in. “I’ve got Clay’s Christmas!”

Driving quickly home, Tina turned on the radio and finally found, after rummaging through the variety of radio channels, a peaceful Christmas song she found herself humming to, “Away in A Manger”. She remembered this from her younger days when she and her family attended a church service at Christmas time. Tina had always liked the tune and now she listened to the words a bit more closely. Not paying attention to her speed, she found herself the victim of blue lights flashing brightly behind her. Had she been speeding? She was so overjoyed to have Dino beside her she hadn’t paid much attention to her speedometer. Pulling over as soon as she found a space to do so, she blew out her breath. Guess her Christmas luck was waning. Wonder how much this ticket would be? After handing over her license, insurance and registration to the stern looking officer she heard him say, “Only a warning now, ma’am. Watch your speed please. Want everyone out there to be safe this Christmas.”

Tina stared at him for a moment, thanked him and added, “Merry Christmas officer.”

Arriving home and relieving her mother, Tina sat quietly in her apartment staring at her small, tabletop Christmas tree.  Again, her luck this evening left her speechless. Might she actually be experiencing what Christmas was truly all about? Eventually crawling into her warm, narrow bed that evening, Tina could not fall asleep. The day had been long, and she should be exhausted. Yet, her mind churned with her good fortune today. She hadn’t spent a dime, got a free dinner, obtained Clay’s present and then escaped a speeding fine - not to mention the wallet she had found which still lay in her purse. She tossed and turned, until finally she sat up with a jolt and declared loudly. “You’re better than this! Tina Ledbetter you are better than this! The world is a hard horrible place at times, but you don’t have to be!” Throwing the covers off her nightgown clad self, Tina padded barefoot to the kitchen where her purse lay on the counter. Removing the wallet from her purse she drew out the driver's license and looked at it closely. She didn’t recognize whose picture was there, nor the address, but she would do what she could tomorrow to return this to the rightful owner.  Sighing heavily, Tina returned to bed and now slept like a baby. Amazingly, she awoke without the alarm clock ringing and with a contented smile on her face. Today she would do the right thing. Today she would make someone else’s day. It felt wonderful!

On her lunch break, Tina walked into the local police precinct and explained to the officer who greeted her why she had come in. The officer took the wallet, located the driver's license and looked up at her after he counted the money it held. “Whew” he exclaimed his eyes wide. “Someone sure must be missing this! Lady, you are certainly a saint to turn this in. Honesty is a rare quality now- a -days. Now if you would please give me your name and contact information, in case the owner wishes to thank you himself, or just in case the wallet is not claimed.”

Tina nodded, gave the officer her information and left the precinct with a light heart. Although that money would have done she and Clay a world of good, it just wasn’t right to keep it. The generosity of others last evening had reminded her there was still good in this world. It was refreshing and her spirit soared with the reminder.

Christmas morning deemed bright sunshine and a sleepy Tina crawled out of bed to hear the gleeful chattering of Clay in the next room as he discovered Santa had brought his Dino Dinosaur. Stepping out to view Clay’s happiness, she thought of the white bearded man in Target and smiled to herself, wondering how his Christmas morning had turned out. Was his grandson as happy as Clay seemed to be? Walking to Clay’s side, she ruffled his blond curls and sat on the floor near him to watch him play. Finally, she urged him to dress so they might go over to her mother’s house and have brunch with her siblings and their families.

 Leaving the apartment, Tina found an envelope tacked to her apartment door. As she opened the envelope slowly, curious who might have left this, three green bills fell to her feet with a sticky note, upon which was written “thank you.”   Retrieving them from the ground she gasped. Three, crisp one hundred-dollar bills gleamed in her hand.

As she and Clay drove to her mother’s home several miles away, Clay asked from the backseat, “Mama, what is Christmas all about anyway? Is it Santa’s birthday?”

Tina looked back at her son clutching Dino Dinosaur tightly and said confidently, “Why Clay, it is about being loving, kind and generous to others just as God has been to us today. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.” Looking back at Clay to see his reaction to her answer, she saw him smile and kiss his Dino on top of his purple head before exclaiming, “Yes, Mama I understand. Then Jesus gave me a present I guess, huh? Santa brought it though, right?”

Tina smiled, her three-year-old son was so young, yet she might teach him soon the real meaning they celebrated Christmas.

Tina helped her mother serve the brunch and as they all sat down to enjoy the meal, Tina paused and looked around. Her sisters, their husbands and nieces and nephews were digging in hungrily while her mother picked at her food. “I’d like to say a prayer of gratitude, if you can all pause a moment.” Faces looked up and some smiled. Others looked confused. Tina began, “Thank you God for blessing us with this food, family and wonderful Christmas Day. Amen.”

Clay smiled at her, his mouth full of food and Dino in his lap with a spot of egg on his purple, Dinosaur head. “Ah mama, that is a nice prayer,” he chirped after swallowing.

Later in the kitchen, Tina approached her mom as they looked at the mess of dishes in the sink. “Mom, I have a little something additional for you,” Tina said quietly.

Tina’s mother smiled her tired smile and shook her head. “Oh Tina, you already gave me a gift. Why I love the scent of Wind Song! Thank you, you remember I have loved that scent for a long time.”

“No, mom. There is something else.”

Tina’s mom pulled a face and then shook her head. “I’ve got all I need with my family here today.”

Tina stuffed a bill into her mom’s apron pocket and replied, “Yeah, mom. I know you do. Here is a little something extra though for you. I love you, mom. Now you can get that coat you really need.”

Tina’s mom retrieved the $100 bill from her apron pocket and stared at her daughter. Her eyes teary, she shook her head slowly. “What? Surely you can use this for Clay or something you need!”

“Merry Christmas, mom. Enjoy! I’m headed out to play with the kids.” Tina left her mom staring at the money, her face clouded with doubt.

Tina and Clay drove home satiated. Driving a bit below the speed limit and humming to herself, Tina noticed the truck behind her, right on her bumper, until finally it had an open lane to pass her. Rushing by Tina's vehicle, the driver looked at her and gave her a middle finger, mouthing something ugly. Biting her tongue, Tina gave him the peace sign in return and looked at Clay with a smile. “Some folks just need a bit of kindness, Clay. A bit of Christmas spirit today.”

Clay nodded and gave Dino a kiss on his purple, fuzzy head.

December 01, 2023 17:50

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2 comments

Gayle Dick
21:35 Dec 06, 2023

Easy to follow, positive message but realistic. Lovely story.

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Carolyn O'B
19:51 Dec 05, 2023

Heartwarming. Well written. Easy read. Thanks for sharing, Merry Christmas.

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