James L. Cowles
Snow flurries were flying and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Christmas eve had finally come to the little Kentucky township of Lyndon.
Harry Tindal had just turned sixteen the past summer and was thinking about girls and cars and not much else.
Those who knew him well, knew he was always thinking, "What's in it for me?" but now, as Christmas approached, he had become even more self-centered. Yes, as usual, Harry was thinking more about what he might get for Christmas than what he might give.
You see, Harry was not a giver. Oh, he was soft-hearted, at least a slight bit, but when it came to family, he seemed to always have much greater expectations. To his way of thinking, his mom and dad had brought him into this world, and they owed him. It was their job to make sure he had everything in life he ever needed or wanted. As far as his sister and brothers were concerned? Well, they could fend for themselves.
In his sixteen years, Harry had never thought of buying a Christmas gift for his mother, or father, much less his siblings and as usual, he was dropping hints about what he expected for Christmas, to anyone who would listen.
What does every sixteen-year-old want? Why, a car of course. Four wheels. Something that would be his and his alone. If it was his, he could do whatever he wanted with it. Maybe he'd put a new engine in it, or deck it out with the best audio system going (he could get the old man to fork over bucks for whatever it needed, or he wanted). "After all, dad, I love loud music and I want to hear it the right way." No, it was no surprise to anyone when Harry hinted he wanted a car. It didn't have to be new, no, it could even be an older model (he told his mother, "Mom, it could even be a year or two old"). His expectations were soaring. After all, it was Christmas.
Now, our Harry had never worked a day in his life. When he needed money, he bragged, "I just hit the old man up for a few bucks." His mother was an even softer touch. He could slip into his child voice and that worked more often than not. She simply couldn't resist him. "He's a good boy," she would say. "I know he has a few short comings, but he'll grow out of them."
It was Christmas Eve and Harry was at home, upstairs, while his mother, father, two brothers and little sister, went shopping for last minute gifts. Harry thought it was ridiculous for the family to load-up and go out into the madness that was Christmas Eve. He could hear them as they pulled out of the driveway, and they were all singing, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas." His father was off-key as usual.
"That's childish stuff," he thought, as he rummaged through drawers looking for receipts from gifts his mother and father had purchased for him. Surely he would find a receipt from a local car dealership, or something to show they had purchased that car for him."If they haven't bought me a car, I'm gonna be hell on wheels to live with," he thought.
That's when he heard the doorbell rang, and looking outside, he saw flashing blue lights emanating from a police cruiser in the driveway. A chill ran up Harry's spine and he didn't know what to do. Should he answer the door? If his mom or dad were there, they would answer, but they weren't, so he decided to pretend no one was home. After all, he hadn't done anything wrong, and in fact, he rarely drove the family car and he knew he hadn't gotten any tickets. "What could I have done the police would know about?" he wondered.
"Man, I ain't gonna talk to nobody. I ain't done nothin' that would bring them out here." As usual, Harry thought it was about him. If it was good, he did it. If it was bad, well, someone else was to blame. "Sorry, Harry. This time it isn't about you." As he sat huddling upstairs, he heard a loud voice say, "We know you're in there son. Your mom told us you were home. Come to the door, Harry, we have some important news for you." Now he recognized the voice - it was Police Chief Gaines. "Oh, it's my new car," thought Harry. "They went out to buy me a car and the chief helped them get it home."
That was it, he thought, as he bounded down the steps to open the door. He expected cheering and a chorus of, "Merry Christmas," but instead, the Chief had a serious look on his face and said, "Harry, get your coat, son, and we'll take you to the hospital. Everyone is okay, but your family was in a pretty serious accident tonight, and your mother asked us to come get you."
Harry was in shock, as he donned his coat. He learned a valuable lesson that night. Family is more important than "any old Christmas gift," no matter the value. Family is the true gift, for both mankind and beast alike. The simple, but important lesson about life, is learning to be selfless, not selfish. For some reason, he remembered a show he had watched on TV, when a mama bear stood between her three cubs and a mountain lion. She was protecting her family. He also thought of the time he read about a mama deer getting shot, leaving two does without their mom. He cried when he read that story and now, it could have easily happened to him. Family. He had never thought of the consequences of losing his family.
Harry cried a lot that evening, but also said a prayer of thanks that his family would recover from their injuries. He just hadn't realized how much he loved them. Too bad it took something so terrible for him to learn about "selflessness," but it's certainly better late than never.
When you are looking for true love and kindness, it's your family who will provide it. Family is the great gift in life, for both beast and mankind. Oh, and yes,
Harry's mom and dad did buy him a car, but it was 15 years old, and he didn't complain, not even once. He even got a job after school.
Harry also asked the principal of his High School if he could speak to his fellow students during assembly. He couldn't help himself, and he cried as he told his classmates about his family. He also apologized to them for being such a "self-centered jerk." It was the first of many times Harry would hear his classmates cheer him. He became a hero to the entire school.
Merry Christmas, and congratulations, Harry Tindal. You have made a major step toward maturity.