by: Kristi Faith
Molly juggled several bags of food and groaned to keep from screaming aloud in frustration. Why am I here? There are so many better things I could be doing. Yesterday, a fire claimed several homes in an apartment complex. Molly’s mother insisted she go to the shelter and help out. The crisis shelter provided food, blankets and a place to sleep for families that lost their homes to a disaster situation.
“Hey Molly, need some help?” Roger, the volunteer coordinator, jogged across the snow covered parking lot.
“Thank you. I brought some food that my mother gathered.” Molly gratefully handed him two full bags.
“I’m glad you’re here. This time of year is rough,” Roger explained.
Molly shrugged and followed him inside. People covered every inch of the old building. Several volunteers handed out plates and hot cocoa. Molly noticed a few kids from her high school. She wondered how they could deal with all this depression without any comforts from home.
Roger handed her a stack of blankets. “Could you start passing these out? More blankets and pillows are stacked over there.” He pointed to an overflowing pile.
Molly handed two blankets to a frightened young mother carrying a small baby. “She’s precious.”
The woman attempted a smile, but cried instead. “This is her first Christmas.”
Molly felt a little tug on her sweater. Looking down, she saw a sandy haired little boy of about four. Molly smiled and asked, “What can I do for you?”
“Me and my momma and my sissy didn’t get a blanket,” the little boy explained.
“Well, I’m sorry! Take me to your family and I’ll make sure you each get your own blanket.” Molly followed the little boy to a corner where his mother and sister waited. His mother looked frightened and tired, but thanked Molly for bringing them.
“I’m Rhonda. These are my kids, Tyler and Katie.” She wiped away the tears welling in her eyes.
Katie held a small Raggedy Ann doll with one hand and her mother’s pant leg with the other. She looked just like her brother, but with a dusting of freckles across her nose. She stared at Molly with wide eyes. Tyler stuck a thumb in his mouth and whimpered.
“He lost everything,” Rhonda explained. “His special toy was a goofy brown giraffe. He’s been missing it the most.”
“I’m so sorry,” Molly mumbled. She didn’t know what to say.
Rhonda nodded and turned her attention to her children.
After Molly finished passing out blankets and pillows, she helped clean up the kitchen and said goodbye to Roger. Molly pulled her scarf tightly against the chill and hurried home.
Why does my mom always suggest these volunteer jobs? The trip to the shelter depressed her. Molly sighed and walked into her bedroom.
As she fell into her pillow covered bed, something orange on her closet shelf caught her eye. She stood on her tip-toes and found her stuffed mouse from childhood. It had been a gift from Santa when she was four. She still remembered waking up early Christmas morning, running down the stairs, and squealing with delight. In front of the sparkling tree stood an orange mouse almost as big as she, and the brightest orange color she had ever seen. His black button eyes and nose shined, and his whiskers stood straight out, tickling her face every time she squeezed him. She called him Mousey and dragged him everywhere with her. She must have tossed him in the box with other stuffed animals she had outgrown.
Molly inspected Mousey and found his whiskers drooping down his face. His nose hung by a single thread. He still had a tear in his back, but he felt soft and the bright orange hadn’t faded. Molly smiled and picked up the phone to call Roger.
The next morning, Molly woke with a brighter outlook. She dressed in her warmest clothes, grabbed her backpack, the box of stuffed animals, and headed for the shelter. When she arrived, Roger was already waiting.
“I’m glad you called last night. We gathered enough stockings for the kids to decorate tonight. You brought stuffed animals, enough for 10 children?” Roger asked.
Molly smiled. “Yep, I brought them. My parents and I also found a few things to wrap for everyone else.”
Roger led Molly to a supply closet in the back of the little kitchen. “We can put the stuffed animals with the stockings our other volunteers brought.”
Molly pulled the big orange mouse out of the box. “Roger, this mouse is really special. I sewed him up, but you can see he was well loved. I really want this one to go to Tyler, the little boy that lost everything in the fire.”
Roger took Mousey from Molly and tenderly placed him in the closet. “I give you my word.”
Early the next morning, Roger called. “I’m sorry to interrupt your Christmas, Molly, but there’s something you really need to see down here.”
When Molly arrived at the shelter, she was amazed. Laughter filled the building. People chatted together, seeming to have forgotten their woes for the morning. Clutched in ten different children’s hands, Molly saw her old stuffed animals.
Roger walked over to her side. “You helped bring this together.”
Molly nodded, speechless. She felt a little tug on her sweater.
“Look, blanket lady! Look! Santa brought me this orange mouse! I call him Mousey and he’s my best friend. Look at his crooked whiskers. Do you see him?” Tyler said in one breath. As he ran off, tripping over Mousey’s big feet, he hollered, “Merry Christmas!”
Molly laughed, feeling the magic of Christmas surround her. She couldn’t imagine a better place to be. “Merry Christmas, Tyler!”