The True Meaning of Christmas

The Filling Station

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He
hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no
decorations, no tree, no lights. It was just another day to him. He
didn’t hate Christmas. just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. There
were no children in his life. His wife had gone.


He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for
the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened
and a homeless man stepped through. Instead of throwing the man out.
George, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to
come and sit by the space heater and warm up.


‘Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,“ said the stranger. “I
see you’re busy. I’ll just go”


“Not without something hot in your belly,“ George turned and
opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. “It ain’t
much, but it’s hot and tasty. Stew. Made it myself. When you’re done
there’s coffee and it‘s fresh.“


Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell.
“Excuse me, be right back,“ George said.


There in the driveway was an old Chevy. Steam was rolling out of
the front. The driver was panicked. “Mister can you help me!” said the
driver with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is
broken.” George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked
from the cold; the car was dead. “You ain’t going in this thing,“ George
said as he turned away.


“But mister. Please help… ” The door of the office closed behind
George as he went in. George went to the office wall and got the keys to
his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building and
opened the garage. started the truck and drove it around to where the
couple was waiting.


“Here, you can borrow my truck,“ he said. “She ain’t the best
thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.“


George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped
off into the night. George turned and walked back inside the office.


“Glad I loaned ’em the truck. Their tires were shot too. That ’01
truck has brand new tires…“ George thought he was talking to the
stranger, but the man had gone. The thermos was on the desk. empty with
a used coffee cup beside it.


“Well, at least he got something in his belly,‘ George thought.
George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked
slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had
been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas
Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn’t cracked, it was
just the bottom hose on the radiator.


“Hell, I can fix this,“ he said to himself. So he put a new one
on. “Those tires ain’t gonna get ’em through the winter either.I He took
the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he
wasn’t going to drive the car.


As he was working he heard a shot being fired. He ran outside and
beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the
left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Help me.“ George helped the officer
inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a
medic. He knew the wound needed attention.


“Pressure to stop the bleeding,“ he thought. The laundry company
had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used
those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey. they say duct tape can fix
anythin’,“ he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.


“Something for pain.“ George thought. All he had was the pills he used
for his back. “These ought to work.“ He put some water in a cup and gave.
the policeman the pills.


“You hang in there. I’m going to get you an ambulance.” George
said, but the phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on
that there talk box out in your police car.“


He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard
destroying the two way radio. He went back in to find the policeman
sitting up.


“Thanks,“ said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy
that shot me is still in the area.“


George sat down beside him. “I would never leave an injured man in
the Army and I ain’t gonna leave you.“ George pulled back the bandage to
check for bleeding. ‘Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right
through ‘ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think
with time your gonna be right as rain.”


George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?“ he
asked.

“None for me,“ said the officer.

‘Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city.“ Then George added:

‘Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.“

The officer laughed and winced at the same time. The front door of
the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun.

“Give me all your cash! Do it now!“ the young man yelled. His hand
was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like
this before.

“That’s the guy that shot me!“ exclaimed the officer.

“Son, why are you doing this?“ asked George. “You need to put the
cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.”


The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you,
too. Now give me the cash!“ The cap was reaching for his gun.
“Put that thing away,” George said to the cop. “We got one too
many in here now.“


He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas
Eve. If you need the money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all
I got. Now put that pee shooter away.“


George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young
man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man
released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.

“I’m not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something
for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job. My rent is due. My
car got repossessed last week…“

George handed the gun to the cop. “Son, we all get in a bit of
squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes. but we make it
through the best we can.”

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair
across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.“ George handed the
young man a cup of coffee. “Being stupid is one of the things that makes
us human. Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer. Now sit there and
get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.“

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop.

“Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I’m sorry officer.“

“Shut up and drink your coffee,“ the cop said.


George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and
an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns
drawn.


“Chuck! You OK?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.


“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?”

“GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did
this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him. “I don‘t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped
his gun and ran.”

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other. nThat
guy works here,“ the wounded cop continued.

“Yep,” George said. l’Just hired him this morning. Boy lost his
job.”

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The
young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?“
Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas, boy. And you too, George, and
thanks for everything.” ‘

“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought
to solve some of your problems.“ George went into the back room and came
out with a box. He pulled out a ring box.

“Here you go. Something for the little woman. I don‘t think Martha
would mind. She said it would come in handy someday.”

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he
ever saw. “I can’t take this,” said the young man. ‘It means something
to you.“

“And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my
memories. That’s all I need.“

George reached into the box again. A toy airplane, a racing car
and a little metal truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil
company had left for him to sell. “Here’s something for that little man
of yours.”


The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that
the old man had handed him earlier. “And what are you supposed to buy
Christmas dinner with? You keep that, too. Count it as part of your
first week’s pay.“ George said. “Now git home to your family.“

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. ”I’ll be
here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.“


“Nope. I‘m closed Christmas Day,” George said. “See ya the day after.“

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned.
“Where‘d you come from? I thought you left?”

“I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger.

“You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?”

“Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn’t see what all the
bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree.
Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn‘t the same by myself and
besides I was getting a little chubby.“


The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder. “But you do
celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold
and hungry.


The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great
doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by
terrorists.

The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth
with many people. – That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any
man.”

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. ‘And how do
you know all this?” asked the old man. “Trust me, George. I have the
inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will
be with Martha again.“ The stranger moved toward the door.

“If you will excuse me, George, I have t o go now. I have to go
home where there is a big celebration planned.“

George watched as the man‘s old leather jacket and his torn pants
turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

“You see. George, it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”

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