Happy Christmas Eve!
Today, as I write, it’s actually a couple of days before Christmas. And today, I was Uncle Billy from that very famous Christmas Eve story, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (That’s our very favorite Colley Christmas movie.) I went to the bank early this afternoon to make a transaction for my father. I had neither deposit slip nor check. It’s “customary” to bring those along. I was glad when the bank clerk said, “We know who you are.” Perhaps they know because I am the one who is forevermore trying to clean up a banking mess from afar…as in… “How can I quickly get enough money from his savings (in another bank) to his checking account without coming all the way from Huntsville to Jacksonville?” …or… “Does he have to personally come in to do this or can he just sign and send one of us?” Somehow when you’re the oldest and probably the most forgetful (He’s the oldest and I’m the most forgetful) customer at an institution, they remember you. Today that was good.
So they did give me the two hundred dollars that Daddy wanted me to withdraw to finish out his Christmas (although from the looks of those 19 stockings and that pile of gifts under the tree, he should be done….And from the looks of those bruises he’s sporting from a recent fall at his grandson’s wedding, he is about done!).
Leaving the bank, I zig-zagged all over Jacksonville doing his errands and mine for a couple of hours and then hurried home to check on him. He had been excited for me to go to the post office and check his mail. He loves to get Christmas cards. True to my absent-minded form, when I got there, I’d forgotten to bring his box key, so I waited in line to ask my cousin, Robert, the postmaster, if he would get Dad’s mail for me. There were 4 or 5 cards for Grat, who lives in the little apartment part of Dad’s house, but none for Dad. So, when I got home, I hurried into the utility room to put Grat’s cards on the dryer for him. I did not want Dad to see them and ask if he got any cards.
Then I put up the refrigerated and frozen items. Then I went to the car to get Dad’s money. I remembered where I’d laid it, still in the bank envelope—the envelope that had a handwritten “Merry Christmas” in red ink on the outside— in the passenger seat. That’s where I was sure I’d laid it. But it wasn’t there!
I searched and re-searched all over the car, his house, the yard. Then I told Dad I needed to go back to town and check one more thing. In Uncle Billy style, I tried to think of every place I’d been. I talked to the cart patrols on both sides of Walmart. I asked at the service desk. I talked to the cashier at register 8. I looked under cars and on top of counters in restrooms. I went back to the bank thinking IF there was an honest person who had found the cash in the envelope that said “Compass Bank” that might be the place it would be left. But it was a couple of minutes after four o’clock and the bank was closed. So I came home once more and fixed Dad some pizza for supper. He asked me if I had thought to go to the bank. I did not tell him, “Yes, twice.” Instead I said, “Well, I do not have your money. I’m sorry. I will get it first thing in the morning. We still have two more days before Christmas.”
I got him settled in bed and told him I was going to run to town just one more time to check on just one more thing. This time I was thorough. The post office parking lot, the lot at McDonald’s, inside McDonald’s where the cashiers and the manager stared at me in disbelief to think that I would actually suggest that someone would relinquish cash for the sake of integrity. I knew the odds were not in my favor. I went to the square where I had been momentarily in the coffee shop, the drug store and the boutique. In between stops I was listening to a lesson from the Polishing the Pulpit thumb drive. I’m listening all the way through the 2015 lessons and, coincidentally, today’s lesson was one of my husband’s where he details the trial and crucifixion of my Lord. I really have a hard time listening to this lesson without crying. Today, though, it gave my weary spirit peace, while I wept. Every time I got back in the car, I thought, “This money is so inconsequential in the scheme of things. In fact, there was one very dark day in history that made, for me, all material things of very little consequence.”
I thought on this, but still, I went on to the bank parking lot and back home to retrace steps again in the yard. It was inconsequential, really, but it was not mine. Exhausted, I came back in the house where Grat was cooking his late supper. He was sympathetic when I told him I’d lost two hundred dollars. I was telling him about how I remembered having laid that envelope with the red “Merry Christmas” in the seat beside me.
His eyebrows arched sharply. “I know where it is!” he said. “It was in the middle of that stack of Christmas cards on the dryer! I haven’t opened it, but I thought that was a sort of funny envelope for a Christmas card!” Just like Potter, Grat had gotten something extra in his stack of papers.
Isn’t it funny how holding something in your hand again that gave you absolutely no thrill a few hours earlier can give you a surge of excitement? I wanted to just kiss that red “Merry Christmas” and dance around with that envelope! I wanted to call my neighbors and say “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost” (Luke 15:9).
Maybe most of all, I was glad my friends, like Grat and all of you who take the time to read, are not like Mr. Potter (although I am like Uncle Billy). You are more like Clarence, the angel. I know that if I ever really do get in a jam, there are lots of you who’d rescue me (and some of you have!) Merry Christmas to you all! God bless you as we all get ready to serve him in 2016.
“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!” …Clarence, the angel.