Join me for a different sort of Christmas tale...
(This actually took place in December, 2012. I am reposting it this year because it is a story that - for the goods and the ills - takes place all over the country each year in some way, about this time. And it's a sweet story and one that blesses me again and again to read.)
About two weeks before Christmas in Washington state (where it is cold and gets darker earlier), a grandma and a great-uncle decided to give a little girl a birthday party. It was a bit late, but that's okay, in a big family "delayed gratification" is an important concept to learn early! They scrimped and saved to let her have her party at one of those party gym places, and invited the whole class. Little Girl was turning eight, and has six siblings and four cousins who live nearby, so the first 10 slots were taken by them; anyone over 15 guests were going to cost extra, but this was a once-in-a-long time party, and the gym was 25 minutes away, so it was anyone's guess at how many were going to come!
Grandma told the guests' parents to drop them off at 4:30, and there was a nearby mall they could go to for shopping. At 4:05, Grandma stopped at Costco with Little Girl, Little Brother 5 (LB5) and Littlest Brother 3 (LB3), who was sleeping in his car seat. She was running very close for time, and walking is sometimes difficult for Grandma, especially in a big place like Costco, where the bakery - and the cake - are waaaaaay in the back of the store. So Grandma told Little Girl to come sit up front next to LB3 while she took LB5 into the store to get the cake and order pizzas for the party. She gave firm instructions to leave the windows up and the doors locked.
Little Girl is a good girl, and because of the size and situation of her family, she is a responsible girl; she did as she was told.
Grandma went in with LB5, who is still learning and doesn't always listen as well as he should. They got the cake, ordered the pizza, and returned after about 18 - 20 minutes. As Grandma opened the back of the van, a strange man (SM) approached her. This is the conversation they had:
SM: "Is this your car?"
SM: "Are those your kids inside?"
Grandma: "They're my grandkids, yes."
SM: "I want you to know that I called the police on you and I had my daughter call the police also. I have given them a detailed description of your car and your license plate number. Leaving children in a car is an arrestable offense. I've been watching your car and you were gone a long time.
I hope you get everything you deserve."
Grandma disentangled herself from further verbal confrontation with SM, and drove toward the exit of the parking lot. There, the police car came up behind her, lights flashing and pulled her over, just as SM said they would. Grandma was prepared, though now running later than ever, and had all the children buckled into their seats and she waited.
The policeman approached the car...
PM: "Is this your car?"
PM: "Are those your kids inside?"
Grandma: "They're my grandkids, yes."
PM: "We got a report that you left them in the car alone while you were in the store. Is that right?"
Grandma: "Yes I did. I was in the store for about 15 to 20 minutes."
PM: "That is illegal and I can arrest you for child endangerment; were you aware of that?"
Grandma: "I didn't know that I could be arrested for that. I would never put my grandchildren in danger. I was going in to get my granddaughter her cake for her birthday and I have trouble walking, and I'm running late for the only birthday party she's ever had..."
PM: "Stay here for a moment, Ma'am...." PM returned, "Did you know your rear tail light is out?" (Grandma does not have an easy life.)
Grandma: "Well... I know it's taped, yes."
PM goes away, comes back a third time, "Ma'am, I'm not going to give you a ticket for the tail light; I'm not going to arrest you for leaving the children in the car - but don't do it again! I am going to tell you that you need to skip the party and get to a car repair store because
your rear tire has a nail in it and is not going to make it through the night."
(Remember: I hope you get everything you deserve.)
Grandma drives away, drops the kids off with Great-Uncle, Grandad and the many waiting parents at the party gym, leaves the cake and uses the GPS to find the nearest Discount Tire Store. It is five minutes away. On the way to the store, Grandma passes one tire shop because it is not the right one; she doesn't go to a second closer tire shop because it's on the wrong side of the road - and not the "right" one. She sees cars in the lot at the Discount Tire store and hopes and prays they're still open as she pulls into the parking lot.
Tire Guy (TG) comes to her car...
TG: "Can I help you?"
Grandma tells the tale of being turned in to the police by the man in the parking lot, the police pull-over and the nail in the tire, then says: "Is there anything you can do?"
TG: "Well, Ma'am, we closed at five."
Grandma: "Please... can you just look at it and tell me if I can make it to tomorrow then? I am late for my granddaughter's only birthday, and in truth don't have any money. I'm struggling to make my mortgage payment this month, and that is November's payment, December I haven't even thought of yet. We've saved and saved to do this birthday party... can I just. make it. to. tomorrow?"
TG: "Wait a minute." Goes away... returns, "Ma'am
Did you know your tires are bald?... Really bald?
(I hope you get everything you deserve.)
Grandma: "Yes. I know, but there truly isn't anything I can do about that until January, at least. I just have to take things one day at a time, and this is where I'm at now."
TG: "You carry kids in this car?"
Grandma (who had dropped the kids off, of course, but did still have the car seats with her): "Yes. I have fourteen grandchildren and frequently have three or four with me."
TG: "Wait here a minute." (There is a lot of waiting in this story, I know, but bear with me.)... ... ... "Ma'am, I looked your records up in our files and you've done a lot of business with us over the past twenty years."
Grandma: "Yes, I have." (She takes all the cars she helps keep running to Discount Tire.)
TG hands Grandma a piece of paper: "Merry Christmas."
Grandma doesn't understand. "I can't give pay you for this. I can't take this bill because I don't have any money, and you're closed regardless."
TG: "Ma'am, this is not a bill. Merry Christmas.
This is a receipt for four new tires.
(I hope you get everything you deserve.)
They have a warranty of 50,000 miles and if you ever have any trouble with them, you call me - here is my card - and I'll take care of things. I don't want you driving around with children in your car on bald tires. Merry Christmas."
All Grandma could do was cry. No one had ever done something so nice for her before; no one had ever given her anything of that sort without her having to ask for it. When that man called the police, he could not have known about the tire. Had the policeman not stopped her, Grandma would not have known about the tire.
Grandma has given away food, coats, shoes... right off of her own back. She set the example for her daughters and sons, whether or not they always follow her lead.
I hope. you get. everything. you. deserve.
As we finish the 2012 race to Christmas this weekend, as you get the last few gifts, the last few groceries, the last few decorations up, Thank You for taking a moment to read my story. Every word is true and shows the true spirit of Christmas - and the truth of Christ - in action. Please share that spirit in these last few days of 2012 and be careful what you wish for. If this story moves you - blesses you - as it has blessed me, please share it with others.
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