Mary held her little step sister’s hand as the two of them walked home from the hospital. It was just a month ago when Mary and her mother had been made aware of little five year old Nancy’s existence.
Mary’s father was an alcoholic and had walked out on his family when Mary was just three years old. It was her mother who had worked hard to put her through school and then her training to be an assistant and typing school. On her part and to her credit, Mary had been a hard, working student who knew how hard her mother worked to pay her fees. She never made demands usual of kids her age and always did well at school. Her teachers were always proud of her achievements and knowing her financial background did their best to get her scholarship so that Mary could finish her studies. Infact even during vacations, while rest of the kids went on holiday with their parents, Mary often worked in her school or the public library and supplemented her mother’s income.
It was one such day as she came back after working at the library that she saw tears in her mother’s eyes and a man she had never seen before was standing and screaming at her. Mary ran inside to see what was the matter when she heard that man scream at her mother and push a small child at her. The girl looked pretty but frightened and was holding on to her mother. Before she could even find out who the man and the child were, the man pushed her aside and, walked out in anger. Mary ran to hug her mother and ask who the man was and what he wanted and why had he left a little girl behind.
First she got her mother a glass of water and calmed her down and then waited for her mother to speak. After her sobbing stopped, Mary’s mother looked at her daughter with immense grief in her eyes and told her that the man who had just stormed out of the house was her father who had abandoned them when Mary was a mere baby. They never heard from him and today he had come after so many decades to say that he had remarried and his much younger wife had left him for a younger man and also left behind their young daughter. Not knowing what to do, he had unceremoniously dumped that child on them and yet again walked out on them. Mary was speechless and couldn’t believe that a parent could do this to their own offspring. She then looked at the young child who she realised was her half sister and saw that the child looked scared and was clinging to her mother.
Once Mary got over the shock of her father’s behavior, she looked at her mother and asked her whether she wanted to keep another woman’s child and take on the responsibility of bringing her up. Her mother replied that the little child had nowhere to go and had been abandoned by both her parents. Mary looked at the child’s innocent face and accepted the fact that it wasn’t her fault that her parents had ill treated her and left her at their doorstep. But Mary was still angry and not as generous in spirit as her mother but she knew better than to hurt her mother’s feelings.
So she smiled and asked the girl what her name was and whether she had eaten anything. The young child walked up to Mary and hugged her and started sobbing. Between sobs she took her that her name was Nancy and she was five years old and that her father had not given her anything to eat since morning and blamed her for even being born. She said her mother had left a few days ago and her father used to beat her and blame her for all his miseries. Today he said he was going to dump her here or just kill her and get rid of her. Mary was speechless that anyone could be so cruel to their own offspring. Mary quietened the child and took her to the kitchen to get a glass of milk and some cookies. She also made her mother and herself a cup of coffee.
Mary and her mother decided to defer any discussion about Nancy after the girl had gone to bed. Mary gave Nancy a bath and pulled out one of the night dress that she had got along with her and put her to bed. Then Mary and her mother sat down to discuss what they will do about this new addition to their family. They both seemed to agree that it was hard enough for such a young child to comprehend what she had gone through so far and it would be unfair for them to also disown her but at the same time with their limited finances, it would be a struggle to feed and clothe any mouth. After a lengthy discussion, they however agreed to keep the child and do the best they could.
The next morning as Mary’s mother went to the hospital where she worked as an assistant, Mary took Nancy along to the library where she was working during the holidays. Nancy quietly painted on the paper that Mary gave her and did not cause any disturbance. At lunch time, Mary came to fetch Nancy and took her out for a walk and got her lunch and then took her back to the library. Nancy was a well behaved child and gave the library staff no reason to complain.
Just as they were leaving at the end of the day, the head librarian called Mary and said there was a call for her from the hospital where her mother worked. Mary was speechless when someone from the hospital said she should hurry as her mother had fallen down and had been hospitalized. Mary got Nancy and rushed to the hospital. Once she reached the hospital, she saw her mother who looked really pale in the hospital bed. She was to stay in the hospital for a few days. Mary was grateful that her mother’s fall wasn’t fatal and that she would be back home soon.
As Mary and Nancy walked back home from the hospital, Mary was deep in thought when Nancy tugged at her hand and asked why shops had trees in them and why they were so decorated. Mary just replied saying that was because of Christmas. Nancy didn’t seem to understand and asked what Christmas was and whether Santa ever came to poor people’s homes. Nancy said Santa had come to visit and leave presents for her friends at school but since her parents never got a Christmas tree, he never visited them. Mary was shocked and didn’t know what to tell the child. Now with her mother’s hospital expenses and Nancy to send to school, she wasn’t sure whether they could afford a Christmas tree this year. But she huffed Nancy and said she would have a Christmas tree and was sure that Santa would leave her a present.
After putting Nancy to bed, Mary sat down to calculate the money she was making and wondered whether she should work over the weekend to make some more money, maybe she could baby sit or mow somebody’s lawn and make a few dollars. But still how could they afford to put Nancy through school and buy a tree and present for her. But then, wasn’t Christmas all about helping and bringing cheer to someone, and Nancy was now family. She was sure just the magical spirit of Christmas would bring a solution.
As she got Nancy ready to go along to the library, she also packed a few things to take her mother at the hospital.
Once she reached the library, the administration head called her and told her that one of the library staff had to leave and thus the position was falling vacant and whether Mary would be interested in taking the job. Mary was speechless that her prayers were being answered so soon and she said yes to the job without thinking. She could also complete her short hand course as a part time in the evenings after her job. The money she made from the job could pay for Nancy’s school fees. The Administrator also asked Mary whether she was willing to spend an hour reading to the children at the daycare that the library ran during the holiday season and make some extra money. Mary was thrilled beyond words and was sure someone had heard her prayer this morning. Maybe if she could manage something for the weekend, she could scrape through enough money for a small tree and a doll for Nancy. The poor child never before had a tree or a present. She was now sure that something would come up for sure and she could make the little girl happy.
Just as she was leaving for the day, she chanced to see an advertisement for a story writing competition with a cash reward for the winner. The story was to be on the true spirit of Christmas. Mary was intrigued and thought to herself that while there was very little time to write and submit the story, the prize money was enough to buy the child a present and also some clothes for the winter. The little girl had brought very few clothes and would need new ones for school. Maybe, she should give this a try.
She was pleased to see her mother looking better and the nurse told her that she would be discharged soon enough. Her mother though looked worried and asked Mary about the money to pay for the hospital expenses and maybe buy Nancy some warm clothes. Mary said that the angels were at work and she should not worry. On the way home, Mary took Nancy along to the church to thank the angels for her new job at the library. Nancy was curious to know what a church was and why Mary was kneeling to pray.
When Mary explained that you could ask God for what you wanted here, Nancy quietly keeled beside her and started sobbing. She then looked up and said that she had never seen God but wanted to thank him for a new mother and a sister. She also said that if the angels could get her new mother home from hospital and make her grow up quickly so she was not a burden on her new family. She asked God to make them rich so that Santa could visit their home because her parents always insisted that Santa never went to the homes of the poor.
Mary was filled with emotion as she heard the prayers of the little girl next to her. Behind them, the doctor who worked at the same hospital as Mary’s mother was also chocked with emotion and realized that this was the girl Mary’s mother had spoken about and appeared tense worrying about how they would mange to bring up a child on their meagre income. Before Mary could see him, the young doctor left the church. He now realized why he had this urge to visit the church today, it was because God wanted him to listen to the lesser privileged child and give him directions on what he should for Christmas.
On the easy way back home from church, Jose the young doctor felt a feeling of peace and knew that God expected him to do something in the true spirit of Christmas. He picked up a very beautiful Christmas tree and presents for Mary, her mother and Nancy and planned to leave them at their home. Jose discussed this with Mary’s mother once he got to the hospital and she reluctantly agreed. She told him she did not have the means to buy a tree and present for her new child.
After putting Nancy to bed, Mary sat down to write the story so that she could enter it in the contest the next day. If she won any of the prizes, she may not have enough for the tree but could maybe just get a plastic tree but maybe buy a warm coat for Nancy.
With a lot of apprehension, Mary submitted the story and after work went to visit her mother. Nancy asked if they could go the church again today as she had to tell the angels something. Mary indulged her and watched her kneel down and start her conversation with the angels with her eyes closed. She listened as the little girl thanked God and told him that her new mother was looking better and prayed that she come back home soon. She also asked God to make sure that her sister Mary win the story writing competition. She thanked God for her new family and said that her new sister was very kind and had shown her a Christmas tree inside the hospital and that she didn’t want anything for herself. Mary was in tears when she heard the little girl say that she had never seen God or a church before but if the angels of God really existed and had heard her prayer, then they should let her know.
On the way home, Nancy worried on whether angels would tell God of her prayers and on how will they let her know. She had also secretly asked for a Christmas tree but not said it aloud because she didn’t want Mary to know. Nancy realized how hard her sister worked and her parents always insisted that Santa visited only the people who were rich.
As they entered home, Nancy’s eyes lit up as she saw a big and beautiful Christmas tree in a corner with some presents under the tree. Both Mary and Nancy were astounded to see such a beautiful tree in their home. There was a note attached to it saying that the angels had heard their prayers. Nancy was thrilled and kept jumping and said that the angels really existed and they had listened to her prayers even though they were not rich. Mary couldn’t think of anyone who could have done this for them. She must ask her mother the next day. Nancy on the other hand sat down with her eyes full of tears of happiness and insisted that she sleep next to the tree so that no one took out away.
The next morning, Mary hurried to the library as she just had to work for half a day as people then hurried to their homes and family for Christmas. She also had to take her mother home. If she won some money for the story, she could buy a coat for Nancy and maybe something warm for her mother. Her coat could of course last her another year. Just as she was settling down Nancy, she was called away for the announcement of the contest. She stood with baited breath as the head Administrator mentioned that in addition to the award money, the local hospital had also added to the award money. Mary thought maybe now with a larger sum as the award, she could have a little cake for the little girl who had never known what a Christmas was.
Finally the names were to be announced and Mary could hardly breathe. Suddenly someone nudged her and she heard her name being announced as the winner. With tears of joy in her eyes, she walked up to collect the award money. She just couldn’t believe her luck or maybe it was the luck that her little sister had brought. Nancy was thrilled beyond words when Mary told her that she had won. She just muttered that it seemed like Santa did listen to the poor too and she must thank Santa and the angels for listening to her prayers.
Nancy talked nineteen to a dozen after they picked their mother from the hospital and took her home. After settling her mother and Nancy at home, Mary dashed out again to buy the warm coats as presents for her mother and Nancy. She might just get some bargain sales at this hour and was thrilled to see that she could actually afford to buy what she liked. She then went to buy a small cake and rushed home. She would pack these late at night and leave them under the tree. She still didn’t know who had given them the tree at their house, could it really be the answer to a little girls prayers?
Her getting a job at the library, her admission to the part-time shorthand course and winning the prize money for her story just in time to pay for the warm coats were really too good to be true and maybe there truly was the Santa that answered the prayers of even the poor. Just as she skipped home, the doctor from her mother’s hospital stepped up and paid the balance money for the coats she had just bought. The cashier just smiled and thanked him for spreading the Christmas cheer.
Mary entered home to find both her mother and Nancy gazing up at the lit Christmas tree and Nancy was busy telling her that the tree had miraculously come home because the angels wanted her to know that they had heard her prayer. Mary herself was beginning to believe in the angels but thought that God had sent Nancy as an angel to them for Christmas.