The little boy stood patiently waiting to see Santa. Myers’ Department Store had the best Santa anywhere. He was fat, jolly, had rosy cheeks, a real beard and hair as white as snow. And when he laughed, his body shook just like a bowl of jelly. He was the real deal.
Unlike the other children who were laughing and fidgeting, Johnny Hodges’ expression was somber. Occasionally he looked over at his parents sitting on a nearby bench.
Johnny and his parents looked different from others in the crowd. They weren’t dressed in stylish brand names or sporting the latest footwear. Their clothes were well worn and they looked exhausted. The lines of fatigue and stress clearly showed on the faces of his parents.
Johnny’s father had been laid off a year ago and still had not landed a good job. He worked several part time jobs to keep bread on the table, but they were barely scraping by. Johnny’s mother helped by taking in sewing, but with two other children in the household her time was limited.
Johnny waited for Santa with a special request. Unlike the fancy toys and electronic games that most children wanted, all Johnny wanted was some new clothes. They didn’t have to be fancy. They needed to be practical. But he just wanted to have something to wear that had never been worn before.
When getting in line, each parent was required to fill out a card with their child’s name and address for the store. The child was told to give it to Santa. The store owner, Jeff Myers, reviewed each card daily to evaluate children’s toy and equipment trends. He also used them for special offers.
Finally Johnny’s turn came to talk with Santa. Santa gently lifted him to his lap. This Santa was even more real up close than from afar. His countenance was kind and his face showed love. He asked Johnny what he wanted for Christmas.
Looking very serious, Johnny said, “I want some new clothes. I have never had any clothes that weren’t hand-me-downs.”
Santa looked puzzled; he had never had such a request before. “Well, ok, young man, but don’t you want something to play with, too.”
Johnny said, “I like baseball a lot but what I really want is clothes.”
“Well, clothes it is,” said Santa. “And maybe Santa can find you something extra.”
As Johnny departed, Mr. Myers approached Santa and asked for Johnny’s card. Something about that sad little boy struck a chord with him.
Myers was a self-made millionaire. He was raised in an orphanage and decided at a young age that he was going to be somebody. From a start as a stock boy, he advanced rapidly into management and ultimately ownership of the chain which now bore his name.
The pre-Christmas period passed quickly and suddenly it was Christmas morning. Johnny and his family gathered for breakfast and played Christmas carols. They had decided not to have a Christmas tree due to cost, but his mom would prepare a special Christmas turkey.
Finishing breakfast, Johnny’s father led the family in prayer. He expressed hope and love, praying:
“Lord, we don’t have much but we have each other’s love and we have you. Thank you for being there for us and we know that the world to come will be a much better place. We will be with Thy son, Jesus, whose birth we celebrate today. Happy birthday, Jesus, Amen.”
Suddenly the doorbell rang. Johnny ran and answered it and there stood Jeff Myers with his arms full of presents. Johnny remembered seeing him while in line.
While Mr. Myers beamed, the family opened the gifts, beautiful new clothes for everyone. There were slacks, skirts, play clothes, shirts, blouses and even socks and underwear. And there was even something special for Johnny, a generous gift certificate from Myers’ sporting department for baseball gear.
The entire Hodges family hugged Mr. Myers and thanked him profusely. He said that Johnny had just gotten to his heart and he remembered the days of not having enough to eat. He also gave his business card to Mr. Hodges and told him to come by after New Year’s. He had a number of job openings and he was looking for people who truly needed, and would appreciate, good pay for hard work.
Don’t believe there’s a Santa? Just ask Johnny. He will tell you Santa’s a gift from God.
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