The Gift

By Sonia Hawkins

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Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot-high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti-filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!

Jeremy’s breath filled the air with wispy clouds as he walked quietly up to the shrine. People hustled past tightly gripping colorfully wrapped gifts, laughter and excitement filled the air. Twas the season after all. When the birth of Christ is to be celebrated. They had no time for the remembrance of things lost. Being Christmas eve, New York was bustling with anticipation of waking up to gifts neatly wrapped under well-decorated trees and stockings stuffed with treats.

His light hazel eyes narrowed in sorrow as Jeremy carefully peeled up the soggy missing person flyer closest to him on the telephone pole. The picture of a young woman with a cheeky smile stared back at him. Silently, he bowed his head, messy chestnut hair covered his eyes as a silent prayer for those lost in the night, alone and cold and broken filled his mind.

Opening his eyes he was greeted by an odd scene, laying in the gutter was a small box. It glistened in sunlight with metallic gold wrapping paper and a bright red bow. Jeremy frowned with concern as he hesitantly picked it up for closer examination, maybe it had a name on it? The concern turned to confusion with the lack of any label or name on the expensive-looking present. What was he to do? Wait for the owner to show up I guess. Jeremy thought as he sat on his haunches, hunkering down for a long wait.

A tug on his coat arm started Jeremy out of his hazy thoughts. Round blue eyes greeted him from under a black toque. Bits of blonde hair poked through the toque covering the little boys’ well-bundled shoulders. “Did you find that mister?” inquired the boy. With a small chuckle, Jeremy held out the gift for the little boy to examine. “Is it yours?” He asked with amusement. “no” stated the boy with a smile. “but I know who it belongs too!” he laughed.

Overhearing the conversation, a poor ragged-looking elderly man contemplated. “I have no money for a meal let alone gifts…I could just ask for it. Perhaps they would be kind and give it to me?” The old man picked up his walking stick and pushed through the crowd towards the two. “Would either of you happen to have anything to give?” Asked the old man with a smile.

Jeremy fished in his pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar note. He handed it to the disappointed man. “Here! Buy yourself a nice meal!” He smiled, but the man scowled. ” I heard you found that gift? Why not give that instead?” the man inquired. “Because it belongs to someone else, I’m not going to give it to anyone but the owner!” stated Jeremy flatly. “Why not?” Blurted the man angrily “Because that’s as good as stealing.” He huffed as he turned back to the little boy who was now watching him intently. “Besides, we know who it belongs to don’t we?” He laughed. “Aren’t you at least curious about what’s inside?” Debated the man. Jeremy considered his answer. “yes but it doesn’t belong to me.”

The elderly man left quietly contemplating the situation as a well-dressed man walked by. Jeremy stood up, sure it was the owner of the gift he pulled it out from under his arm. “ahh” Said the well dressed man, “Nice gift!” laughed the man “Is it yours?” asked Jeremy with a tired sigh it had been over an hour since the mysterious package had appeared, it was starting to get late.

After a small silence, the man’s face turned serious. “I’ll pay you for that! A surprise gift might do me some good!” Jeremy looked curiously at the man, doesn’t he have enough money to buy himself a gift? What’s with all the attention the box was getting? “No sorry, I’m not interested in selling it..” He stated in a tired and quite annoyed voice. “fine, it was just an offer.” The man stated shortly as he smiled a bitter smile and walked away.

Jeremy stared down at the package in frustration, this was getting ridiculous. Weary eyed he looked through the large skyscrapers down the road, the sun was setting. Well, it’s not like the person, whoever they were, was missing the gift. Jeremy thought as his gaze moved back to the package. Maybe I could just re-wrap it afterward? Nobody would know, and I’ve earned it I think.

The little boy stared intently at Jeremy, his eyes sharp and narrowed that sent shivers down his spine. “Hey, you think you could go to the coffee shop around the corner and get me a hot chocolate? Here get yourself one too!” He said with a forced smile. “Sure.” stated the little boy flatly. The boy didn’t look at Jeremy as he took the money out of his hand and ran towards the corner. Licking his lips, Jeremy waited for the edge of the boys’ coat to disappear around the corner before looking down again at the gift. The gift glistened gold in the light of the street lamps that now filled the streets with a dull orange glow. Scanning the area, an empty alley with two garbage cans caught his eye.

Walking quickly, that turned into a small trot down the alley. Jeremy stood in the edge of the light, just out of sight of the pole. Daring only a glance at the pole before starting his unwrapping. The gift only had two pieces of tape on each corner, easy to unwrap, he thought. The box was plain cardboard underneath. Carefully opening the lid Jeremy held his breath with anticipation. A gust of strong wind blew through the alley as a flash of light filled the whole area, blinding Jeremy and knocking him to the ground with an unseen force.

Groaning Jeremy pulled himself to his knees. “what have you done?” came a sharp angry voice. Jeremy looked up to see the little boy, his face looked aged in a strange worn way. youthful yet with eyes sharp and aware. he stood firmly and confidently at the entrance of the ally holding two steaming paper cups.

“What did you do?” he asked again in a voice that seemed far too adult for his age. ” So I opened the package, so what?” laughed Jeremy, “SO WHAT?! OVER 2000 YEARS OF PLANNING AND YOU JUST HAD TO OPEN IT! OF ALL THE SELFISH…” “Wait what?!” Jeremy looked shocked at the little boy who was now pacing back and forth muttering. “Ok, ok, we can fix this, we just have to remind the people, we just have to show them..” The boy looked excited at him “And you’re going to help me!” “What are you talking about? Remind them of what? Come on! It was just a little package, nobody is going to miss..” The boy quickly cut him off. “Remind them that it’s Christmas, Remind them what that means, Remind them that Christ is why we celebrate!”

Jeremy laughed, “Why would we need to do that?” smiled Jeremy as he ruffled the boy’s hair through his toque. “Don’t patronize me!” The boy frowned. “That box has been passed down from each Christmas angel to the next. To test mankind. It was my turn, if anyone gives away, sells or opens the box not only do I fail my final angel exam! But mankind will no longer remember who Christ is, or what Christmas is about!” He stared at the little boy, mouth gaping open in disbelief.

“You’re crazy!” He stated as he pulled himself to his feet and started dusting himself off. “Oh really?” The little boy’s eyes narrowed sharply, “Go ahead, ask anyone, ask anyone who Christ is and what Christmas is!” Jeremy shook his head in disbelief with a small smile as he walked wearily out of the alley. This kid sure has an imagination he thought to himself.

Glancing into the street, the Christmas lights all hung with care, dim-lit stores with neatly wrapped presents in their displays lined the street. “See? still Christmas eve!” “But..” “Now it’s already dark! Shouldn’t you be heading home?” “But!” “No buts!” Jeremy glanced at his watch before exclaiming ” Wow! it’s already 9.30 pm!” I have to go! You take care kid, and make sure to get home safe!” Jeremy didn’t look at the boy as he ran towards the corner. His mind racing with things left to be done before Christmas day.

The little boy stared longingly after Jeremy before quietly walking back into the alley. He gingerly crouching down to pick up the empty cardboard box and wrapping paper and gently stuck it into his coat. “What am I gonna do?” The worried boy whispered to himself as tears rolled down his cheeks and hit the frosty earth.

Walking the empty streets the boy glanced through the store display windows. “How can I fix this on my own?” He wondered intensely. Just then a particular display caught his eye. It had a giant Santa sitting in the chair, surrounded by gifts. the song Sleigh Bells rang quietly from the display. “That’s it!” laughed the boy. “Song! people always remember Christmas with music!”

Jeremy felt a pang of guilt at leaving the little boy behind. But he hadn’t even gotten all the gifts on his list yet! He bolted down the road towards the jewelry store, women like jewelry right? His lungs felt like they were going to explode. Turning into the store too quickly he rushed the door only to bounce back and hit the concrete with a thud.

It’s only 9.30 pm on Christmas eve! This store had never been closed this early on Christmas eve before! looking around to see if anyone had noticed his embarrassing lapse of judgment his eyes narrowed in confusion as people passed by, something was off. But he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

A little girl stared at the Christmas display in the toy store window with amazement. “Mommy, what’s that?” Asked the girl curiously. “I don’t know sweety, probably just another sale gimmick, common, you’ve got school in the morning and it’s late!” Jeremy looked surprised at what the little girl was pointing at, a Christmas tree in the window with a little wooden train set circling it.

A horrible feeling grew in the pit of his stomach as he gathered himself off the sidewalk. It couldn’t be? Could it? Jeremy’s eyes darted back and forth. The obvious confusion and curiosity filled the air as people wandered the streets aimlessly, inquiring about the bright decorations and lights. “Merry Christmas?” He voiced to a passerby in a quivering voice. “Merry what? What’s that?”

Jeremy stood frozen, his worst fear realized. Eyes wide as he watched the cities workers start to dismantle the giant Christmas tree in the city center. “What the heck they put this thing up for again?” “I don’t know jack, you don’t know jack, we don’t get paid enough to know jack.” Stated the older worker flatly. “Hey, I’m jack!” “Exactly we don’t get paid to chit chat, now get back to work!”

The fear in Jeremy’s eyes quickly turned to a hard determination as he turned and bolted back down the road towards the alley. He wondered the streets all throughout the night without luck. The boy was gone. ”Where did that kid go?” He sighed as he turned another corner. Bumping quite suddenly into the man in the back of the crowd. Something big was happening in the center of town. Jeremy stood curiously along with the crowd to see what the commotion was about.

The kid got up onto a milk crate and raised his hand. A murmur went through the crowd and then it fell silent, except for a few people shouting words of encouragement at him. The kid acknowledged them with a nod and a shy smile. In the full light of the day, he looked less angry and more beautiful. He waited until people stopped shouting. A siren could be heard, maybe five or ten blocks away. The kid raised the bullhorn, pressed the button, and began to speak.

“Attention to the dear people of New York! I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas! I know you don’t remember what that is but I shall serenade you in song to remind you!” The little boy cleared his throat then began a horrendous recount of “I wish you a Merry Christmas.” The crowd listened in horror at the off-key screeching sound the little boy was belting out. Some covered their ears as a tomato flew past hitting the wall behind the boy. “HEY!” he yelled at the crowd. “I’m a Christmas angel! not a choir angel! I’m doing the best I..” He yelped as Jeremy grabbed the little boy by the arm, pulling him off the milk crate and started dragging him into the nearest alley.

The boy struggled against Jeremy’s tight grip as he was hastily dragged into the alley. “Wha?” The boy stated stunned “ You know I’ve been looking for you all night? How did you know that everyone would forget Christmas?” “I told you already!” stated the little angel suspiciously. “I don’t really trust humans, heard bad things..” “Oh?” Jeremy shifted his weight uncomfortably. “What about you? Aren’t you supposed to have wings?” The little angel puffed out his chest in indignation before striking an odd pose similar to a muscle man flexing. “Nope guess I don’t get wings, BECAUSE YOU OPENED THE BOX!” “Ok ok we’re getting distracted, how do we fix this?” Asked Jeremy in a quiet serious voice. “Well, I was told we have to remind people of Christmas.” Jeremy thought for a minute. That didn’t sound right to him but he shrugged it off, the little angel was more in the know than him. “Got any ideas on how we’re going to do that?” He shrugged “As a matter of fact I do!” the little angel smiled as he grabbed Jeremy’s hand and led him back out the alleyway.

The little angel led him through the streets with an inhuman speed that left him disorientated and dazed. Eventually, they stopped, leaving him to catch his breath, the little angel entered the shopping mall. After a few seconds of heavy breathing and holding his knees, Jeremy shook his head wearily as he trotted up after the little angel. “What are we doing here?” “Looking for a Christmas star! Nobody could forget that! It’s the best thing ever!” Laughed the little boy as he trotted towards the nearest store. Alas, no star could be found among the many trees toppers, angels, candles, the neon representations of stars seemed to disgust the little angel. “No wonder this world can’t remember Christmas! All these stars are too small!” He stated crossly. Jeremy smiled a little bit at that. “Well if they hadn’t taken down the tree in the center of town, you would’ve seen the biggest one we have!” That made the little angel stop and stare sadly at the ground. “No, it wouldn’t have been…” He stated sadly as he walked quietly away.

Jeremy was filled with an odd mixture of feelings. What did the little angel mean? “Come with me.” The small angel stated with a smile. “I need to put in a request.” “A request?” “For the biggest Christmas star!” Jeremy wondered curiously after the little angel as he walked towards the restrooms. What did the little angel mean? To put a request in?

The restrooms, an odd place to communicate with heaven he thought to himself. “Not as odd as you would think” Laughed the little angel making him very uncomfortable. Can he read minds? The little angel slowly knelt in front of the sink and prayed a powerful prayer. “Lord, these people have lost everything. Please give them the star, the light of the world mirrored in the beauty created by you. Amen” “That was it?” He stood a bit stunned, a prayer? “Angels pray to communicate with heaven too? “A small sob out of one of the stalls surprised them both. “That was beautiful!” Came the voice from behind the door. Thinking quickly Jeremy grabbed the angel’s arm and ran out the door just as the man came out from behind the door. “Now that’s what Christmas is about!” The middle-aged man wiped the tears from his eyes as he looked to see who had said the prayer. Finding no one he washed his hands and left.

Jeremy and the little angel laughed as they exited the shopping center. They looked up to see everyone in the streets, cell phones out, recording and watching the amazing scene. A beautiful star shone brightly in the sky in broad daylight! The people in the streets seemed entertained by the light, but nothing more.

Glancing over at the little angel, worry-filled his eyes and the small frown across his little face. “They don’t understand..” He stated in disappointment. Jeremy put his hand on the little angel’s shoulder “We’ll figure it out, but maybe a different approach?” “Like what? They just don’t get it!” The little angel said sharply. “You don’t build a house from the roof down, maybe start with the foundation?” The little angel looked with extreme attentiveness at Jeremy “what did you have in mind?” “come with me,” Jeremy said as he took the angels little hand and led him through the streets towards his apartment.

Jeremy wearily poured another cup of coffee with a heavy sigh. He walked carrying the two cups into the living room. The little angel was carefully writing something on a piece of printer paper, a stack piled high on either side of him on the living room floor, paper strewn all over the floor. “I can’t seem to figure out what needs to be said and what doesn’t. Ok, how does this sound? Jesus is the light of the world, the only begotten son of God. Prophesied to save the world through the remission of sin.” The little angel started excitedly. Jeremy sat heavily in the recliner. He had no idea how this little angel had so much energy left. “Sounds good to me.” He said with a yawn.

“It’s done!” laughed the little angel. Jeremy started awake. “Wha?” Little hands trembling the small angel ran his hand down the roughly bound book before hesitantly handing it over to Jeremy for closer inspection. Looking closer, he noticed how complex the concepts he had included in the book were. Not the average Christmas story, but the drawings included were obviously done by a child, stick men, and mismatched colors.

Rubbing his forehead with concern Jeremy didn’t know how to approach the subject. “It’s good right?” smiled the little angel. “Yeah, yeah it’s good.” He didn’t have the heart to tell him most will not be able to grasp what he’d written, and the drawings were difficult to decipher. He’d obviously spent a long time creating it Besides it was the best idea they had had so far.

“There’s just one last thing to do.” The little angel smiled as he snapped his fingers and a dove appeared. “Whoa!” Gasped Jeremy in surprise. “That’s nothing! Wait till you see what it can do!” He stared in amazement as the little angel cooed like a dove and the dove answered. “Having a right royal conversation there?” His eyebrows raised in curiosity as the dove hastily picked up the book with its little red feet and flew out the open living room window. “What’s it doing?” Inquired Jeremy. “He’s delivering the present!” Laughed the little angel with clear excitement. “All we have to do now is wait!” The little angel whispered as he sat hastily cross-legged on the floor, staring at the window with powerful intensity. “To everyone in the world?” Jeremy asked skeptically. “Oh, ye of little faith!” Smiled the little angel as he continued to stare motionless out the window.

They waited, shifting from one room to the other. Making cups of coffee and hot chocolate. The little angel never seemed to lose patience. Jeremy, however, was getting antsy. “What if it doesn’t work?” He asked clearly concerned. “It will, it has too!” stressed the little angel. There was a long silence. Only broken by the tick-tock of the clock, further pressing the reality that time was running out.

“What happens at midnight?” Jeremy finally asked. “The world loses it’s most precious gift, it’s hope for a future! The understanding of Christ’s birth does more than you realize. It’s a symbol that heaven believes there is something worth fighting for here! That Light can exist in the darkest places, whether the gutter or prison cell. For the addict, thief or murderer, there can be a hope beyond the darkness the encompasses them. That they don’t stand alone in the darkest recesses of the mind, body or soul.” The little angel’s voice quivered as tears streamed down his face. Jeremy’s heart was in his throat as he quietly knelt down and embraced the sobbing little angel.

Unknown to Jeremy and the little angel the dove had successfully delivered the book, and each time it did, another would appear in its little feet. Moving unnaturally fast The bird tirelessly delivered the book to every mailbox, street corner and governing office in the world. Tired from its venture it lay resting in an apple tree in Scotland. Its work done, it had earned the rest.

Noticing right away, people had taken the book seriously. The news spread quickly of the mysterious book across social media and news outlets around the world. People had started reading it. As predicted very few understood the meaning of it. But those that did spread the knowledge of it’s meaning far and wide. But in all this commotion, something was still missing, Something important.

As the elderly round man faced the cameras, he took a deep breath. He remembered what Christmas was about since the encounter in the shopping mall bathroom. He stood with the world’s full attention as he explained the book’s tale as the real story of Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. Only to be mocked and laughed off camera.

Jeremy frowned in disgust. The little angel sat huddled in the corner of the room facing the wall as Jeremy flicked through the news channels. Every headline was about the mysterious book. The man from the bathrooms case was not the first person to be laughed at. Anyone who accepted the man’s message was instantly shut down. To them, it was just a storybook, nothing more.

Jeremy let out a heavy sigh before turning off the TV. He quietly walked over to the corner where the little boy was sitting. Glancing up at the clock he squinted to read it. 11.50 pm, they had 10 minutes before the reality of what God had done for them was lost forever. Sitting facing the wall with the little angel the reality of this finally hit Jeremy’s heart.

The tears came in waves, between the muffled cries. Jeremy saw the little angel staring at him, a deadness was in his bright blue eyes that he thought should never be in a child’s face. Looking down at his hands Jeremy realized he had been the one who had done this. And all this time he had been expecting this small angel child to fix it for him.

Realizing this, a fire built in Jeremy’s stomach made it’s way up his throat and he started to pray. “I come before you oh lord as a sinner, I ask that you do not look upon my sins, iniquities, and shortcomings, but upon the blood of your son Lord Jesus Christ. Whos sacrifice allows me to stand before your throne. I ask oh lord that you carry through my voice to the people of the world.” The little angel looked sharply at Jeremy. Jeremy, focused, continued “ People of the world. Jesus died for your sins. Can any of you say you’ve lived a life without regret, Pain or suffering? The book you received today was about the child of God who stood his ground and against all odds made a way through this mess we call life to give you a hope and future!” Jeremy’s voice broke “So today I’m asking you, believe! If not for your sake, for your children! What’s better? A world full to the brim with only darkness? Or the beauty of a candlelit by another? Give Christ a chance! And you’ll see, he can heal your hurt, he can wash away your regrets, he can console you while you’re suffering!” Jeremy couldn’t take it. Breaking down into tears again. The little angel staring at him attentively now. He quietly and gently placed his little hand in Jeremy’s and closed his eyes. “Lord, I stand in agreement with this man, and if any of you out there wish too, stand in agreement with us. Together we can be the salt of the earth and a light in the darkness, lighting each other’s candles until the Lord returns. In Jesus Name amen” the little angel’s eyes could not be seen. But the meek smile on his face said it all.

Reaching over the angel gave Jeremy the biggest hug, squeezing as tightly as he could muster. “5 minutes till midnight” He heard the little angel say through Jeremy’s crying whimpers. He hadn’t known what he had, till it was gone. No more light in the world? No more hope of a future beyond the suffering most now know? What kind of world will that be? One of darkness and despair.

As the world turns there are many mysterious things that can happen. But none so much as a spark of faith in the heart of any man, woman, or child. A single prayer can move mountains realized the paramedic, fighting for a life next to the damaged car door. “I stand in agreement” he whispered as he reached into the flipped car to grab the woman’s hand. “I stand in agreement” stated the lawyer as he walked into the courtroom to try and free the innocent man. ”I stand in agreement” prayed the inmate in a dark isolation cell. “I stand in agreement,” cried the little girl in defiance as she begged on the street corner.

Jeremy finally let go of the little angel. It was 1 minute to midnight. “I guess this is it..” he calmly stated with bitterness. “yeah I guess” stated the little angel with curiosity. “Why did you pray like that?” he asked inquisitively. “I guess because it was what I needed to hear,” Jeremy said a little embarrassed. Jeremy realized he hadn’t prayed since this started. He wasn’t sure what rose up inside of him to make him pray but he felt it needed to be done.

3.2.1 midnight struck. A loud sound could be heard throughout the entire earth. It started off small like a whistle. Soon the sound gained definition and traction. It was the sound of voices singing! A million voices singing together in harmony! Joy to the world filled the air in every country, nation, and continent.

Jeremy and the little angel looked at each other in amazement. “We did it? WE DID IT!” Jeremy laughed as the little angel started dancing around the room. “Joy to the world!” laughed the little angel. “Yes you did.” spoke a strange male voice. Jeremy and the little angel looked towards the voice. There stood an angel in white robes. With long golden wings. “Time to go.” his mouth curled in a small gentle smile. “I guess this is goodbye?” Jeremy couldn’t help as his voice cracked in disappointment. “I didn’t catch your name..” Jeremy realized. “oh, laughed the little angel as he stood with the larger angel. White light started filling the room, emanating from the angel’s bodies. The faint outline of wings could be seen forming on the child angels back. “My name is Trumpet.” The light-filled the room and Jeremy opened his eyes to an empty living room. “Thank you Trumpet,” he whispered as he turned to get ready for bed. This truly was a Christmas to remember.

Some things should never be forgotten or lost…

About Sonia Hawkins

Sonia Hawkins is a 29-year-old dreamer who wants to show the world what’s truly valuable in a day and age where our next meal is half a days wage. To see the hidden things, the hidden acts of courage and kindness when all you can make out is a superficial gesture… The love, laughter, and tears that make us who we are. Sonia currently has one book on the market, Health to Bones and is working on several others. All stories hoping to show elements of life that are rarely touched on. To manifest the beauty life creates in every face that you pass on the street every day and in every heart mended with gold.

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