A Galveston “Hard Candy Christmas”

Several years ago, there was a family who, like many today was truly struggling, around the holidays. My wife and I wanted to help, but we believed they would not accept our gift, seeing it as charity, rather than truly what it was; simply a gift. They were not used to accepting, it was there nature to be the ones giving, and even in their struggles they found the opportunity to help those around them. I decided to share a difficult period from my own past in hopes it would open the door.

Below is the contents that note …

It was Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1992. I was a student at Texas A&M University at Galveston. This was a difficult time. Everyone had headed home for the holidays; it was a time for celebrations and coming together for friends and families. My children were waiting for Santa to bring them something. They had been patient, they had been soooo good. It would not take much to make them happy, but good children got something from Santa, even if it was small or simple. That was the way it was supposed to work, but not at our house, not that year.

We were broke. I mean hard broke. The kitchen was empty, the cars were running on fumes, and when that was gone, well it was gone. We would get some income in a few days, but it wouldn’t be much, and it wasn’t here now. Not only were there no toys for the boys, there was no Christmas Eve dinner. There would be no Christmas breakfast or lunch for that matter. As one song put it, “It was going to be a hard candy Christmas.” But at least we were together, and there was more love to go around than I felt I deserved, but love we had in abundance. In some ways it made things easier, that same love for those kids and my wife ate at me for not being able to provide for them as I should. It left a hole; parts of that hole are still here today.

My wife was at work, the boys were with friends, and I came home to find an envelope in the door. I felt my heart leap into my throat. I hadn’t checked the mail in days because all that would be there were bills and there was nothing I could do about them, except worry more. I had no idea what this envelope could be, not likely anything good. Good things didn’t come in envelopes anymore.

I reached out took it from the door, looked down, it was sealed. The envelope was a white non-descript everyday envelope. Only someone who has been there can understand this next statement. It took courage for me to open that envelope, but I opened it. I may not be a brave man, but I am no coward either. Inside was no letter, no bill, no chastisement, only salvation after a fashion. The envelope contained one thing: a fifty dollar bill. God, some friend, some random act of a kind stranger who happened to choose just the right house had said “I still care”; the universe is still here for you. I didn’t go into the apartment. I didn’t have the strength. I sat down at my own doorstep and cried.

After a few moments, I ran to my car, drove to the store, put a gallon of gas in the car. Headed to Walmart bought a few toys for Santa to bring the kids. Next I went to the grocery store and bought enough food to get us through until our next payday. We had a warm and wonderful Christmas filled with what seemed like all the love in the world, satisfied tummies, and each other. I think if you listened carefully, you could have heard reindeer hooves on the roof that night. I know I did.

To this day I have no idea who that benefactor was, though I have an idea or two, but I really don’t know. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it happened, the true spirit of Christmas came to visit.

Those difficult times that seemed like they would never end, did. They passed as surely as winter turns to spring. Today, we are fortunate. We have what we need and more. Those kids have grown into the finest people I know. Every parent hopes that their kids will be better than they are, mine are. They have found the loves of their lives and a grandchild is on the way. The struggles of those dark days yielded the means for me to support them today. We got through that time together, and with the grace of an unknown benefactor one cold Christmas Eve.

Today, your holiday season, may seem dark. This time will pass, your children will grow, and life will bloom for you with all the potential of someone who has planted as many seeds as you have deserves. But now it is still the winter before the spring. In that spring, you will share this and more. Today though, there is an envelope stuck in your door. The only difference, the ONLY difference, is you know the heart it comes from. That is necessary because we have no door to stick the envelope in.

This is not pity, nor charity, nor anything like that. It is the universe saying it is still here and still cares about you. Please accept this gift, remember this story, and someday maybe it can help another.

I will never forget the first sentence, of the first chapter, of the book “The Road Less Travelled”, it simply says “Life is difficult.” But the rough spots come and go, and sometimes come again. All too often we do not see the outstretched hand. The important thing to remember is these unpleasant and stressful episodes of our lives pass. Accept the help and friendship when it is offered, and offer the hand and be a friend when you can.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who knows someone who is there now, has been there before, and anyone else; for each of us may be there someday.

Shane Collier
Founder, Consolidated Reality, LLC