A Christmas Story

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. It was still dark outside, and I wasn’t fully awake yet, but I answered my phone and heard a familiar voice. “It snowed over a foot last night! We need your help to shovel. Get out here as soon as you can.” I looked at the time, and after blinking the sleep out of my eyes I was able to see that it wasn’t even 6am yet. It was dark and cold, and yet someone wanted me to get out of my warm bed and do free work for someone else. Or “service,” as they called it. And to make matters worse, it was Christmas morning, and my last Christmas at home before I graduated high school and moved out.
For as long as I could remember, every Christmas morning had been the same for me and my family. My two little siblings would sleep in my room with me and my twin brother on Christmas Eve night, and although tired from the big family party, we would struggle to fall asleep as we speculated about what kind of presents we would get the next morning. We would normally wake up a little before 7am, and excitedly talk with each other until 7 O’ clock came, which is when we were allowed to wake up our parents. My parents slept in the room above ours, so right at 7:00, on the dot, we would all yell “Merry Christmas!” as loud as we could to wake them up. We would then run out into the basement and impatiently wait for them to get dressed and get the camera so they could take pictures of us coming upstairs to see what Santa had brought for us. It was such an exciting tradition! But looking back, all of those Christmas mornings had one thing in common. In my mind they were all focused around one thing: Me.
This Christmas was different though. Still half asleep I woke up my twin brother and started to put on my snow clothes. We had a church assignment to shovel the driveways of widows in our neighborhood every time it snowed, and Christmas day was no exception. We had no idea if anyone else would come help, or if it would be just the two of us, but we grabbed our shovels, got in our truck, and slowly drove on the dark snowy roads towards the house of an old widow who was, no doubt, still asleep in her bed.
As we drove our old truck, we listened and sang along to Christmas music, and I started to notice a warm feeling of joy come over me. Even when we got out of our truck into the cold, there was a clear and discernable happiness in the air that I had never felt before on a Christmas morning. The snow was wet, cold and heavy that day, but my brother and I hardly noticed as we laughed, joked, and sang the whole time we shoveled. After we finished, we met up with a few more people and cheerfully shoveled one more driveway before we all went home. But before we finished, I remember standing there and looking at everyone with big smiles on their faces. It was just amazing to me that this many people would get up out of bed on Christmas morning, before the sun had even woken up, simply to serve their neighbors. This is what Christmas was all about.
The joy of Christmas meant something different to me that snowy morning so many years ago. I still enjoyed opening presents with my family, but it was a temporary happiness. I don’t remember any of the gifts that I got that day, or on any Christmas really. The happiness I felt from opening presents came and left, as it usually does with material things. But I have yet to forget the joy that I felt singing hymns in the dark while shoveling snow for people who couldn’t do it on their own. And I don’t believe I will ever forget that feeling, because it changed Christmas for me forever. Christmas is about love. It’s about helping others in need. And ultimately, it’s about Jesus Christ, the perfect example of love, service, and sacrifice. Although that experience was so long ago, I still put my phone close by and a shovel in my car every Christmas Eve night, remembering the first time I ever felt true Christmas joy.