Tuesday, December 23, 2008
(Based upon a True Event)
There was once a young man who lived in a Big Bad City of Rich, Mean and Inconsequential things. This young man had a dream of being different, perhaps to one day even do something epic. This idea of achieving was long ago instilled in him by his grandmother when he was a very young boy. In the summers of his youth, he and his baby brother would stay at her small clapboard home in the south. There they'd share a swing, and the young man would sit for hours with his 'gran' those sunny summer afternoons on that large green swing. It was the most vital piece of furniture on her screened-in porch in Virginia.
It was there, one memorable afternoon, she’d tell him that out of all her many grandchildren (and she had close to 60, by then), out of every single one, this young boy sitting beside her was destined for "Great Things." But she had not told him what that Great Thing would be. Perhaps her eyes were clouded by the cataracts of old dreams and the vision outside them had grown hazy. Or perhaps she already knew and wanted him to realize it fully in his own time, and in his own ambitious skin.
As he grew older, the young man had fulfilled a part of that destiny she'd envisioned for him. When most of his friends were running the streets or rotting from the atrophy of urban youth, he’d somehow excelled in school, and soon became a student in college.
The young man worked very hard and most meticulously. While in a Modern Literature class, it was discovered he possessed a Special Gift. Perhaps this one gift was what his grandmother had long ago prophesied. It seemed he was developing into quite the writer. People, professors, pupils alike, not only enjoyed the things he wrote, they actually FELT the things he wrote. This was a magical gift, indeed.
And so as the years passed, he managed to finish school. Unfortunately, in his senior year, his beloved grandmother passed on.
This saddened him terribly, for now no matter how hard he worked, or what he would become, his grandmother could no longer see it. The young man began to question the time, the work, the effort of becoming someone epic.
Instead of fulfilling the hazy vision his elder loved one foresaw in him, he began to drift and loiter. With his grandmother gone and his college days done, the Country was gripped in the throes of a recession. There were no jobs that fit his particular skill, or held out hope for any real advancement.
The summer became autumn and autumn progressed into winter, and Christmas loomed ahead.
And there was this talented young man without a job, without hope nor the promising prospects of any employment.
He’d moved back into his parent’s home, and that alone became a setback that severely depressed his spirit.
Day after day he’d dress in his one blue suit, the same suit he’d worn to his grandmother’s funeral, and he’d head out on his quest to become one of the gainfully employed. But the doors continued to close and slam in his hopeful black face. The young man was now way beyond the point of utter despondency. More than this, he wondered how he would possibly manage to purchase Christmas gifts for his mother, his father and his younger brother.
The Holidays drew nearer.
Late one afternoon, as he and his one blue suit walked dejectedly down the avenue, he ran into an old friend. His old acquaintance appeared to be doing quite well. Though this friend had never finished high school, never considered college, never was driven or ambitious, he was now driving around town in a very fine car, and wearing the latest in expensive designer sportswear.
They spoke, and they joked, as they once had in their golden days. Being slightly amazed at his old friend’s fortune, the young man asked,
“So, what you been doing for yourself? I mean, look at you! You’re looking mighty successful, my friend.”
And that old friend informed him of his booming business in pharmaceuticals, and how, if he wanted, the young man too could be driving a nice new fly car, and sporting the latest in track suit finery.
This was his fork in that snowy wind-drift road. This could possibly be the answer to all his out-of-money-blues. Drugs and their sale were a thriving commodity within the community. There were other young men like him, who doing big things by dubious means, and he looked around, he had seen the glossy sheen of their notorious success. Now here was this friend from his past, offering him a ticket to the land of fast food urban riches. The young man was so ready to agree, to do what he had to do to finally, finally achieve and succeed.
Still, something like an old voice haunted him slowly.
And so, he told this friend he would THINK about it, and give him his answer the following day.
On this way home that snowy evening, he passed a group of carolers singing an old Christmas hymn:
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,
Let nothing you dismay…
Remember, Christ, Our Savior Was Born on Christmas Day…
To Save Us All From Satan’s Power
When We Were Gone Astray…”
Odd that he would hear that song now. He recalled how that one carol was his grandmother’s favorite of all the Christmas songs. As he walked away and the caroler’s voices faded… another voice singing the very same song became LOUDER inside his ear, inside his head. It was his grandmother’s voice. Lovely and strident, so soulful and strong… and was if she were his own Christmas angel, singing him home.
The feeling of it made him warm inside, even on that frigid December day.
Later that very night, his grandmother revisited him in a dream.
In this dream: they were sitting together on that sunny summer Virginia porch swing. But instead of the usual warmth of memories past, the young man he felt a sense of cold emanating from her. When he looked closer, he could see his beloved ‘gran’ was crying.
“Why? Why are you crying, Gran?” the young man asked of her.
“Because, my grandchild is blocking his blessings,” she said.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
And she told him, “Son, God has blessed you with everything you’ll ever need… and you keep ignoring those gifts. They are what make you special and rich inside, and you don’t even use them,” she cried.
“But it’s Christmas! I want to bless my family… and I can’t, Gran. Even with this so-called ‘gift’, I can’t!” he said in desperation.
“Oh? Really? Can’t you?” she asked.
And then she turned away from him. The young man held his head in his hands, and when he lifted his eyes, she was gone.
He awakened that Christmas Eve, still unsure of everything, except for one thing. He was going to say NO! The answer was, NO, to his friend’s offer of quick cash through dirty deeds.
And though that friend looked at him as if he were crazy, the young man said it. “No!”
On his way home again, strolling by those same carolers, singing that same song, he happened to look down in the snow, and he saw it. It was a brand new Cross pen. The gold inlay gleamed under the Holiday lights in a way that beckoned him. The gleam of it begged his knees to the ground. He picked up the pen as the carolers sang “Let Nothing You Dismay…”
He headed home with that shiny new utensil. That night, he sat at his desk, and as if by magic, the thoughts and the words and the sentiments began to pour out of that pen. They came out of some sacred place in him, like fresh spring water from a gushing well.
This would be his Christmas present to his family: Poetry. For each of them, a poem composed of the words he felt for them, each special, each uniquely beautiful, each heart-breakingly tender.
In the last lines of the poem he'd penned to his mother, he wrote…
“I wish I could purchase you a fine new mink
I wish I could lay the moon, there, at your feet…
I wish I wouldn’t cry as I write this poem
I wish I could prove how much I love you, mom.”
And so, on Christmas morning, he presented those gifts to his loved ones. Oddly enough, knowing his circumstance, each of them truly FELT the love implicit in his words. But his mother felt hers most especially.
She said through eyes full of tears, “How did you know, son? This is this best gift you could’ve possibly given me.”
He wanted to tell her that he saw it in a dream, about an old woman, sitting on a large green swing.
But instead he embraced his mother very tightly, and simply said, “Merry Christmas.”
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