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Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury for Kids
A Story a Day from December 1st Through Christmas for Kids and Their Families
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
The Easter Egg Christmas
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Easter was just a week away when the radio announcements began. Each day, as the holiday approached, my five-year-old daughter, Ashley, and I would hear updates about the Easter egg hunts coming up at local parks in our area.
With the first mention of the events, Ashley began pleading with me to take her to one of the big egg hunts the coming weekend. I knew in my heart that sometimes events like these could set kids up for disappointment. With so many kids scrambling for only so many eggs, the odds of her not finding any at all were very real. Still, I did not want to be the reason why she might feel let down, so I smiled at her and agreed to take her, all the while hoping that she would be able to find at least one egg.
Saturday came and we drove to the hunt that Ashley had decided would be best. The parking lot was jammed with cars loaded with children. Frustrated by all the chaos, I considered leaving and just going home again when Ashley jumped out of the car with basket in hand, eager to begin hunting. She was not discouraged in the least by the crowds.
After I parked the car, I joined Ashley and as we began walking toward the event area we heard an announcement on the loud speaker. The Easter Bunny had hidden hundreds of eggs early that morning, and each and every one contained a surprise inside. Ashley's eyes lit up as she imagined what treasure she might find inside the special eggs.
I glanced across the field that was roped off for the hunt and was easily able to see several eggs lying out in the open area. To make sure that the hunt was fair for kids of all ages, the field was roped off in sections and each section had an age limit. Ashley signed in and was directed to the proper line for her age group. When the whistle blew and the rope was dropped, the children ran into the field searching quickly for all the eggs they could find. After the hunt was officially over, each child began his journey back across the field.
Disappointment showed on the faces of the children who didn't find any eggs. Huge smiles were on those who did. I searched the crowd for Ashley, growing concerned that she might be in the group of children who didn't find anything. I hoped that her heart had not been broken.
Just then, I spotted her in the distance running toward me with her basket. To my relief, she was smiling. Once she reached me, I counted three eggs lying in her basket. She plopped down on the grass and reached for one, which she quickly twisted open.
The egg contained a certificate for a Happy Meal TM compliments of McDonald's. That made her day right there, regardless of what else might be in the other two eggs. We decided we'd go there for lunch.
The second egg rattled when she shook it. The mystery was quickly solved when several golden tokens to Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Palace fell from the plastic egg. Ashley looked up at me with pleading eyes and asked if we could go there and play for a while after we ate at McDonald's. I agreed as she reached for the last egg.
I didn't think that anything would top what she had found in the first two eggs until we saw it with our own eyes. There, inside egg number three, was a gift certificate to Toys "R" Us for fifty dollars!
Ashley had won the grand prize!
She jumped up and down, thrilled, as I expected she would be. But I had no idea that her happiness wasn't simply because she had won a toy-shopping spree until we got in the car.
"Mommy, can we stop by the mall on the way home?" Ashley asked.
I assumed that she wanted to spend her gift certificate, and I agreed. As I buckled her into her seat, I quizzed her on what toy she had in mind.
"I don't want any toys for me, Mom. I want to buy some toys for an angel," she replied.
"An angel?" I questioned. I couldn't understand what she was talking about. And then I remembered what had happened during the previous holiday season.
Last Christmas, Ashley and I had been doing our Christmas shopping in the mall. We came upon a gigantic tree in the middle of the mall with paper angels hanging from the tree branches. Each angel had the name of a child written on it. Ashley asked me what they were for. I explained that sometimes Santa can't visit every child's house on Christmas Eve, so he sends a list of kids to the Salvation Army. They put the names on angels and hang them on this special tree in the mall. That way, people can help Santa out by giving presents to one of the children whose name is on an angel. The tree is called an Angel Tree.
Ashley just stood there, looking at the tree and all the names hanging there. Distracted with thoughts of completing my Christmas shopping and thinking that I had satisfied her curiosity, I rushed her off so I could finish looking for the items I had on my Christmas list.
Later that night, as Ashley was getting ready for bed, she wanted to know what happens to the angels who no one buys presents for. "Will they get any toys?" she asked.
I explained that the Salvation Army would try and see to it that every child would have a visit from Santa on Christmas. Her concern touched me so much that I suggested we say a special prayer for every kid whose name was on the Angel Tree. So we offered a prayer that all of the Angel Tree children would get presents for Christmas. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I had thought that was the end of it, but now, months later, I realized that she had never forgotten about the Angel Tree children. I pulled over to the side of the road and looked into the eyes of this little girl sitting beside me. Though small in size, her compassion for others was huge. I explained to her that the Angel Tree is only in the mall at Christmas and it was now Easter. There would be no Angels to adopt at this time of year.
Ashley sat there in silence for a minute and then she looked at me.
"Mommy, can we save this money until Christmas?" she asked.
"Yes, we can," I answered. "And we will make some girl or boy very happy!"
I looked at the excitement on Ashley's face and realized that all along I had acted like Christmas was all about buying the right gifts for my family and friends, decorating our home and creating a wonderful Christmas dinner. It had taken my five-year-old daughter to make me realize that it is up to all of us to help the less fortunate, especially at Christmas. Her compassion woke me up to what the true spirit of Christmas is all about. As I pulled back onto the highway, I knew in my heart that I had developed a respect for my daughter that I would carry with me forever.
That next Christmas, Ashley and I went to the mall on the very first day that the Salvation Army put up the big, beautiful Angel Tree. We quickly picked out two Angels, one for Ashley and one for me, and with smiles on our faces we set off for an extra-special shopping trip.
That early December day, we began a Christmas tradition that all started because of an extraordinary Easter egg hunt and a little girl with a very big heart.
[EDITORS' NOTE: Ashley is now seventeen years old and has been actively involved in the Salvation Army Angel Tree Project each year, wrapping and distributing gifts to children. In many cases, the Angel gifts are the only Christmas presents these children receive. To become involved in the Angel Tree Project in your area, call your local branch of the Salvation Army or go towww.salvationarmyusa.org.]CHAPTER 2
Lights for Lena
You give little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
It had been the perfect winter night to view Christmas lights. "Hurry, kids!" I shouted upstairs to my children. "Daddy's already outside warming the van." Within minutes I heard excited voices. "Mommy! Mommy!" my six-year-old daughter Abigail shouted, sliding on her behind down the carpeted stairs. "Is the hot chocolate ready?"
"It's in the van," I told her, smiling as my two-year-old son Simeon tugged at my shirt. We were all wearing our pajamas. After all, this was a Christmas tradition! Each year at Christmastime, we'd get into our sleepwear, pack a bag full of munchies and head to our van to go looking at decorations on neighboring houses. We had just stepped out of the door when Abigail surprised me by asking, "Mama, can you give me more money for doing my chores? I want to buy you, Daddy and Simeon the best gifts for Christmas!"
"The best gifts are those that come from the heart," I grinned, recalling how she had drawn me a picture of a rainbow the previous day after learning I hadn't been feeling well.
"You mean that instead of buying people things at the stores, that there's other ways to give them gifts?"
"Yep," I answered, securing her seat belt. "All people have to do is look into their hearts, and they'll find many good gifts to give."
Settled into the van, we opened the bag of goodies, and the kids cheered as we passed house after house decorated with snowmen, Santa and his reindeer and nativity scenes, glowing brightly in Christmas lights.
Suddenly, it began snowing lightly just as we rounded the corner of a street that led into the neighborhood that my husband Jeff and I had lived in years before. The headlights flashed onto the first brick home of the street. The house appeared disturbingly dark compared to the bright lights displayed by its neighbors.
"The people who live there must not like Christmas," Abigail noted from the back seat.
"Actually, honey," my husband said, stopping the van briefly along the curb, "they used to have the best decorated house in the neighborhood." Jeff clasped my hand, and I sighed, remembering Lena and her husband and how they used to take such joy in decorating their home for Christmas. "It's for the children," they'd say. "We like to imagine them in the back seat of their parents' cars, their little faces full of Christmas magic as they look at our home."
"Why don't they decorate it anymore?" Abigail asked, bringing my attention to the present.
"Well," I began, remembering the dark days when Lena's husband had been hospitalized, "her husband died a few years ago, and Lena's very old. She only has one child, and he's a soldier living far away."
"Tell me what she's like," Abigail said, and for the next few minutes Jeff and I filled her in on the kind things Lena used to do.
"And every Sunday after church, she'd make homemade cookies and invite us over. She's an incredible person," Jeff concluded.
"Can we visit her now?" asked Abigail.
Simeon met Abigail's question with enthusiastic agreement, and I shared our children's excitement. Both Jeff and I looked down at our attire.
"I knew this would happen one day," he said, rubbing his forehead. "First I let you talk me into wearing pajamas in the van, and now you're going to want me to actually go visiting, right?"
I kissed his cheek and an hour later, after leaving Lena's home, Abigail and Simeon clutched the crocheted tree ornaments she'd graciously given them.
"I wish I had a gift for her," Abigail said, waving at the elderly woman standing in her doorway.
The next morning, my children gave me strict orders not to come upstairs. They said something about it being a secret mission for Christmas. After rummaging through drawers, closets and toy chests, they came down the stairs wearing toy construction hats, snow boots and Simeon's play tool belts.
"What is all this?" I laughed. "Are you going to fix things around here?"
"Nope," Abigail smiled brightly. "We're going to give a gift to Lena. Since she's too old and doesn't have anyone to do it for her, we're going to decorate her house for Christmas!"
Her words brought tears to my eyes. "That's a wonderful idea," I said, calling their father. "But I think you'll need Daddy and me to help. Is it okay if we're part of your secret mission?"
"Sure!" they replied. Hours later, we stood with Lena, who couldn't have been happier, on the sidewalk in front of her now brightly glowing house. The lights we had found in her basement were shining with pride over snow-capped arches and windows. Candy canes lined the sidewalk and welcomed passersby to the nativity scene that Abigail and Simeon had positioned on the snow-covered lawn. A car cruising along slowed its speed to view the lights. Two children peeked from the back window, their faces full of excitement. Lena watched them, her eyes aglow.
It had been a day full of hard work, but it was worth every second to see the joy on Lena's face. Suddenly, she disappeared inside her home and returned carrying a tray of freshly baked cookies.
Abigail reached her hand inside my coat pocket and clutched my fingers.
"You were right, Mom," she sighed, her dark eyes content.
"About what, sweetie?"
She leaned her head against my arm and replied, "The best gifts are those from the heart." I kissed the top of her head, so proud of her for using her own heart to think of this, and then I turned to my husband. Our eyes met and he smiled.
"Looks like decorating Lena's house can be added to our list of Christmas traditions," he announced. The kids heartily agreed.
Karen L. GarrisonCHAPTER 3
My Christmas Wish
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.
It became a very sad Christmas for us when we found out why Grandpa had been so sick lately. The doctors called my family to tell us that Grandpa had cancer. If that wasn't bad enough news, we learned that we wouldn't be able to have Christmas at home with him because he would be in the hospital getting treatment. We went to visit him on Christmas day, but he was too weak to really enjoy celebrating with us.
Over the next nine months, he was admitted to many hospitals and was continually moved from room to room: from ICU to private room, etc. I could hardly keep up with where he was.
One day, while Grandpa was watching TV in the hospital, he saw a commercial with a Jack Russell terrier that was shown flying through the air to the slogan, "Life's a journey—enjoy the ride." Grandpa fell in love. When my Uncle Shane went to visit him, Grandpa wouldn't stop talking about "that cute little dog on the commercial." To humor him, Uncle Shane found a picture of a Jack Russell terrier just like the one in the commercial. He brought it to the hospital and hung it on the wall of my grandfather's room. Whenever Grandpa moved to another room, he brought the picture with him.
By September, Grandpa wasn't improving like the doctors expected he would, so they told him he should see a special doctor in Dallas. Everyone agreed, and Grandpa was flown by air ambulance to another hospital in Texas.
One day, as we were chatting with him on the phone, Grandpa told us, "I want a Jack Russell terrier, and I am going to get one when I get well." We realized then that the thought of getting a little terrier was encouraging him to keep going and was giving him hope.
Months passed and Grandpa had several surgeries to help him beat the cancer. He was still very weak, so I wondered if he would be home for Christmas. As December arrived, having Grandpa home with us on Christmas became the only thing I wished for. Every night, I prayed that my wish would come true.
Then right before Christmas, the doctors said he could go home. With some help from Uncle Shane, my grandpa would be able to leave the hospital and begin his journey back home.
My whole family was excited to get the news. It had been a long, hard year for all of us. Since Grandpa would be coming home on Christmas Eve, everyone wanted to do something extra special for him this year. As soon as a Jack Russell terrier was mentioned, we knew that it was the surprise that would really make Grandpa happy. It was the kind of dog that Grandpa had looked at every day on his hospital wall, the dog that kept my grandpa hoping to get well. So, for days, my mom, uncles and aunts searched the ads in the papers looking for a real Jack Russell terrier puppy to give to Grandpa.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury for Kids by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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