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Christmas For Strangers

Mr Ivy mailed ten greeting cards, each to a person who was a stranger to the others.  None of them had ever met, and short of this greeting card, they may have never made contact.  The man who mailed them, did a few unusual things to ensure that did not happen.

In each card, on the inside, the man included the name and address, of one of the other people in each card, with the edition of one word.  His plan, was to gently nudge these people to connect with one another.  After mailing the cards, he got in his red suv, and left town.

In addition to this, he did include one other thing, an explanation.  It was that incentive, that insured the people would reach out to one another.  It was the promise that if all the people came together, and put the phrase in the right order, they would find a fortune to share.

The first person the man reached out to, was Sam, a former accountant, in a difficult time of his life.  His company had went bust, he had lost everything, and was planning on spending a very sad Christmas.  That’s probably why he was the first person to reach out.

He mailed a note to Edna Haynes.  She was a waitress with two children.   A widow, she had lost her husband in the military.  The hope of something better caused her to reach out, but not to Sam.  

The name in her card was Charlie, a retired postal worker on a limited income.  He volunteered in the community, and was happy.  Charlie didn’t care about money for himself, but he knew that a fortune, even a part of it, would help a lot of people. So he reached out to Grace.

Grace was a teacher, just starting out.  She had a huge amount of student loans to deal with, and a world to conquer.  She was bright, optimistic, and totally exhausted.  Extra funds would help, so we she reached out to Clara.

Clara was the owner of a small beauty shop, and a grandmother.  The money could take her and the family on a much needed vacation.  She reached out as well, to Heather.

Heather was a detective.  She worked long hours, and worked hard, but she was lonely.  Like Clara, she could use a vacation.  Also like Clara, she didn’t have the money. So she reached out.

The others were Ken, a librarian, Deborah an insurance agent, Mike a contractor, and Paul a young Minister.  Each had a reason to reach out to the others, and Harry knew it.  Soon, all of them had gathered for a meeting. 

They put the ten words together, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave…” Obviously the phrase fit this way, except it didn’t lead to a fortune.  They wondered if someone was playing a practical joke on them.

Heather, the detective, while skeptical, had a gut feeling.  “I know it sounds like a joke, but if it is, what could they hope to gain? How are we all connected? If we can’t find a common thread, maybe we just need to play around with the words.”

Paul, the Minister agreed.  “I think she’s on to something, on both counts.  It would be good to find out if there is a common thread, but there’s something out.  Near the Church, there’s a street called First Love.  Maybe it’s a location.”

They talked for awhile.  Ken discovered that he and Grace had went to the same college.  Charlie had delivered mail on Clara’s street for years, but they had never met.  

Mike dined at the restaurant where Edna worked, being a bachelor who didn’t cook.  Finally Deborah and Sam lived in the same building.  So there was some connections, but they couldn’t find anything, or anyone who connected them all together.  

So they began to work on the ten words again.  If First Love was a street, then that left “On the day of Christmas my true gave.” Sam smiled, “Isn’t there a clothing store called ‘True’ on that same street?”

Deborah agreed. “That’s right. The owner’s a nice guy.” Heather rearranged the words again. “On first love the day of Christmas, true my gave.”  “Gave could be a play on words for gift.  In other words, on first love street, the day of Christmas at the store called True, is my gift.”

The ten agreed, and asked each other what they should do until Christmas Day. While they were tempted to go the next day, they all agreed that most likely, whatever was going to be available, wouldn’t be there until Christmas.

“Do not open til Christmas. That sounds like those stickers I used to see on the packages I delivered.  Well, I guess this time, something is going to have a delivery for all of us.”  

The funny thing was, while none of them went to the store early, they also didn’t go back to their individual lives.  Paul and Heather ended up talking for awhile, and exchanging numbers. They told themselves it was to keep a lookout for any strange sightings near that area until Christmas.

Sam and Deborah seemed to notice each other more when they ran into each other at the apartment building.  Charlie showed up at Clara’s shop to cut his hair, and asked her out.  He said he was too old to make a big excuse, he wanted to see her.

Mike and Edna talked every time he went in the restaurant.  Ken and Grace started talking too.  The original topic of conversation had been the mystery gift.  The more time each of them talked, the more they found in common.  Before they knew it, each found something in the other that they realized they were missing.

By Christmas Day, where there had been ten individuals, there were five couples.  The Minister and the Detective had started dating.  Everyone at Paul’s Church was glad to see the new visitor sitting on the back row, and watch as she moved a little closer each week.  They also noticed the smile when Paul looked that way.

Along the way, love wasn’t all that happened.  Mike hired Sam to help with his books.  Edna, her kids, and Mike started volunteering with Charlie’s charities.  Ken and Grace both bought insurance from Deborah.  In fact, the group ended up connecting with love, business, friendship, and faith.  

Deborah wasn’t the only one that Paul welcomed into his Church.  Over time, because each liked Paul, they found their way to the Church. Even those who had resisted at first, found themselves wanting to go to hear Paul.

With the group’s blessing, at the special Christmas Eve Service, he even told the story to the Church members of how they met.  As he was telling it, he hit upon the one thing that none of them had taken time consider.

“On Christmas Day, I don’t expect the store to be open.  I don’t know how we will find anything, or even if we will.  We haven’t really talked about that part, but I know this.”

“We have already been given a great gift, each other.  Now we are not strangers.  We have been united by a single message, given by someone we did not yet know. Isn’t that The Message of Christmas? That One we did not yet know, was born on a street in a little town, and gave Truth to the world that He loved, before they even knew Him?”

After Christmas Eve service, they all went to dinner.  During that dinner, it was decided, they would arrive at the store at noon.  Each had plans for Christmas, Sam was meeting Deborah’s friends.  Paul was introducing Heather to his parents.

Charlie and Clara were serving Christmas Dinner at the shelter.  Mike was taking Edna and the kids on a sleigh ride.  Each couple had plans, and they weren’t going to make Christmas about greed.

So at noon, actually a few minutes late, they all gathered to the front door of the store True.  They looked around for anyone, or anything, and at first, they saw an empty street.  After about ten minutes, it was starting to snow pretty well, and they were almost ready to leave.

That was when, they heard sleigh bells.  The sound came from one of those video doorbells that had become popular.  When they looked towards the door, they heard a voice, and a click.  “I promised you all a gift, and I meant it, come on in, it’s unlocked.”

Paul turned the knob, and the door opened.  They all filed in, and on the counter, was one of those tin, red Christmas mailbox decorations.  It had a little sticker, “Open, It’s Christmas.”

In it were ten greeting cards, nearly identical copies of the ones they had previously received.  The one difference, was each had been given a check for 25,000.  The ten just stood there, flabbergasted.  

Each of them recognized the name on the check. They called out to see if anyone answered, but no one did.  There was no one hiding in the store.  So one by one, they wrote a thank you note, put it in the box, and left the store.

The ten of them went out for lunch.  Heather had the precinct run the name of the person, and her suspicions were correct.  Edward Ivy was the owner of True.  He had packed up, and moved to Alaska the first of December, after selling his store for a huge profit.  

Charlie had been his mailman.  Deborah was his insurance agent.  Paul was his Pastor.  He knew he was moving, but they hadn’t talked about Edward’s store.   Like Mike, the widower dined where Edna worked.  Sam used to mow Edward’s yard when he was a teenager.  

Edward had taught a business class at the local college, where Ken and Grace had both attended.  Like Charlie did now, Edward got his hair cut at Clara’s.  Heather had once helped catch a thief once that burglarized Edward’s store before she was a detective.  They all had been strangers to each other, but not to Mr. Ivy.

They never knew what sparked the old store owner to take interest in them.  Or how he convinced the new store owners to let him play Santa on Christmas Day.  What they did know was this, he had made their lives better, asking nothing in return.   

Edward Ivy knew why.  He had wanted to give these people, who he had seen kindness and determination in, a Christmas present. He had been blessed, and wanted to bless others, especially on the day all remembered The Greatest Gift.

He did wonder one thing. Maybe one day he’d send them a card and ask?  Did any of them notice the little partridge in a pear tree, engraved on the door of that little decorative mail box? 

Oh well, Edward didn’t have too much time to think about it.  He had to get ready for a first date.  With the realtor who sold him his new place in Alaska.  He sang the first few lines, as he walked out the door,“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” 

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