Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Christmas Spirit Tree

by Charles Langley

When I bought my acre of contentment in Randolph County, North Carolina, and built on it, I was separated from Jim Garn, my nearest neighbor, by a patch of hard-rock land on which only a scraggly, sparse lone pine tree grew. At its very top was a silver plastic star. A single red Christmas ornament graced a lower limb. When Jim came over to welcome me, I commented on the tree.

"Christmas is long gone," I told him. "Why don't you take the ornaments off your Christmas tree?"

"It isn't a Christmas tree," he answered. "It's a Christmas spirit tree. Christmas is just one day a year. The spirit of Christmas should last all year long."

Weirdo, I thought. I wonder what other far-out theories he has. But year long Christmas spirit wasn't a theory to him. It was a way of life. When I fell at work and was laid-up for three weeks I regularly found gifts on my doorstep. Fresh vegetables. Fruit. A can of blackberries. A green tomato pie. I knew they were from him, because anyone else would havehad to use my long driveway and would have been seen. When I was back on my feet, I broached the subject with Jim.

"Why didn't you wait when you brought the gifts so I could thank you?"

"I was only the deliveryman," he said. "You should thank Him who made the gift

Over time I heard of other acts of kindness on his part. Always anonymous. Never waiting to be thanked.

One day the tax assessor came to his door. The door was ajar. Religious music came from a radio within. He knocked, but got no answer. Pushing to door open, he saw Garn, sitting lifeless in his rocking chair.

"What a horrible way to die," someone said. "Alone and deserted."

I didn't answer. But in the quiet of my home I bowed my head. "Lord, take his soul and be gentle," I prayed. "He was one of the good ones. You and I know that the good are never alone and deserted."

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