Susan and Mathew made heavy purchases of various gifts, cakes and sweets and toys the whole afternoon and had them bundled in colorful wrappers and put in the rear seat of the car. With both earning good salary, they spend every Christmas a tidy sum towards gifts for their friends. They generally surprise their friends on Christmas Eve.
They decided to start with a friend on the outskirts of city. This would enable them to see the bright lit streets and houses with decorations and shining lights in multi colours.They drove through the various streets slowly seeing happy people and happier children playing around the Christmas tree. They could even see the tables in a few houses with food, cakes and sweets laid on them lavishly. They heard the singing of girls and young men dancing. There was mirth all around.
As they were exiting the busier part of the city through the darker and poorer areas, Mathew saw a man in Santa’s robes signaling them to stop the car. Surprised he stopped the vehicle by his side. He was white in complexion, old in years and looked really like a Santa Claus with his flowing white beard, smiling eyes, merry, and round-bellied. He was bespectacled and complete with his red coat trimmed with white fur and a bag on his shoulders.
“How can I help you? Would you like a lift? But where are your sleigh and the reindeers?” Mathew asked jocularly.
“Thank you. I don’t need a lift. But I was wondering where you are bound for as there are no rich men of your class beyond this point” he said even as he peeped into the car and added “I see you carry lots of gifts like Santa Claus. For whom are they intended?”
Mathew did not appreciate his impertinence in stopping his vehicle and asking him questions that was no concern of his. But the genial manner of the man and his attire softened his anger. He said “I am taking this to distribute these to my friends before night fall. I am in a hurry actually” he said.
“I would not take much of your time. Your friends must be well off like you. Am I right?” he asked
Though irked at his impudence, he politely answered in the affirmative.
“Oh, oh, you seem to have missed the spirit of Christmas and what the Man who died in the cross stood for” he said.
“What do you mean?”asked Mathew in anger.
“Nothing. It is just that Christmas is not merely fun, feast and family that includes friends and relatives. It is not just giving gifts to each other. It means embracing the true Christmas spirit, to reach down within ourselves and be willing to give to the needy. Give ourselves, our time, our love, and our possessions to those who are not as happily placed as ourselves. Giving gifts to such people is no obligation, but a symbol of love. Yonder, a little down on the road you will see the poor in the humble tenements with no light or adequate food or well dressed to protect them from the cold weather. It is the same Christmas for them too but without the merry making and joy” said the old man
For a moment Mathew was speechless. The truth of the words hit him hard and he could see from Susan’s face that she was also affected.
The old man seeing their silence said “The poor people shiver in cold and wallow on the damp floor with hungry stomach. Let your gifts bring cheer and warmth on this special day if you are inclined to agree with me. Do remember that Christmas is a season for hospitality and charity.
“Thank you Sir for opening our eyes. This Christmas will be special. We haven’t bought the blankets. We will presently buy and distribute all these to the poor. Our friends can do without these.” Mathew replied and turned to Susan asking her for approval. She was elated at the suggestion. They both turned to find the old man had vanished just as quickly as he appeared. They were left wondering whether Santa Claus is real as in that long stretch of road no one can disappear that easily.