The Sweetest Christmas Gift

Christmas 2016 has come and gone. But, an unexpected gift stands out from all the others. A special gift from Santa Claus.

Two weeks ago, a fellow dishwasher at the homeless shelter asked me, “Do you think I should dress up as Santa Claus? My friend said I could borrow his suit.” If anyone has the perfect Santa Claus physique, it would have to be Chris. He has the heart to match the jolly old man’s too. I encouraged him to follow his dream and go for it!

Chris has learning disabilities. He can read but he can’t write well at all. I watched once as the cook asked him to write a grocery list.  It was a next-to-impossible task.  So, it came as no surprise when Chris asked me to jot down the names of the regular volunteers. He wanted to write Christmas cards to all of them.

I thought about Chris several times in the week before Santa made his appearance. I remembered the excitement in Chris’s voice as he told how he planned to go to the dollar store to purchase candy canes for the homeless.

I worried Chris had chickened out and decided not to dress up after all. It was two hours past the time of 1 pm that he mentioned he’d arrive. But, then I heard a deep,”Ho! Ho! Ho!” There was Santa Claus in his red felt suit and long white beard. Santa Claus didn’t have a sleigh. He had a shopping cart filled with reusable grocery bags, each brimming with brown paper lunch bags. Perfect sleigh substitute for a shelter, don’t you think?

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When Santa asked for an elf to distribute the lunch bags, I volunteered. Chris placed a suitable-looking elf hat on my head. The homeless lined up and were handed  candy canes and  bags with “Merry Christmas! Ho-ho-ho!” written on them. Inside was a small assortment of candies.

Chris confided he had stayed up until 2 am putting together the bags. His friend helped him with the hand-writing.  He asked me to look inside his big black Santa Claus bag- also in the shopping cart- for some Christmas cards. The names of the regular volunteers were written on the envelopes.

I withdrew mine and opened it, shocked! There was a Tim Horton’s gift card for five dollars within it. Actually, on the card was written $500 but I’m pretty sure it’s for five dollars.

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Chris is on a disability pension and has a job at a grocery store corralling the shopping carts. For him to have purchased candy, Christmas cards and Tim Horton’s gift cards, well, that took away a lot of his very limited cash flow. How many of us would do the same?

“Don’t open the other bag, Rita! That one is for church!”

After supper hour on Mondays, the shelter hosts a church service. Chris  brought along enough bags of candy to dole out to the homeless that attend church service each week.

I was so touched by all  Chris had done. By my way of thinking, the five dollar gift card from him was priceless. A gift from a true Santa Claus.

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