Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
- Hebrews 13:2
The workshop was chilly and drafty and dusty, the implements of artistry and craftery pulled from pegs and lifted from shelves and piled into boxes. Coming at the end of all the moving, the shop was the last room emptied to make way for the homes new owners.
Working alone, carrying overstuffed boxes and pushing oversized workbenches, heartsick that my daughters school concert was taking place with a vacant seat where her dad should have been, I trudged from shop to truck, shop to trailer, emptying in hours a room that had taken 10 years to fill.
A couple of vehicles pulled onto the street and parked along the curb. Minivans emptied teenage contents, the boisterous group tumbling to a house two doors away. Must be having a Christmas party, I mumbled to no one. I wish I had time to go to a party or do something besides lug this stuff.
My rumbling stomach reminded me: parties mean food, and I was lugging all that junk on an empty stomach. Back to the shop, back to the truck, back to the shop, back to the trailer.
Then, like the Grinch on Christmas morning, I heard music.
On the way back to the truck, my sore and bruised arms loaded with another box of workshop detritus, I heard, as if carried on the breeze, the sound of those young people singing.
They werent coming to a party, I realized. They were caroling. They were sharing the joy of Christmas.
Well, my neighbors probably just attend their church and are getting a pre-arranged visit, I thought. No one goes out caroling to strangers any more; the world is too scary. So when they finished their front-porch concert the teen carolers surprised me again by walking to the home of another neighbor.
I knew that neighbor wasnt home; she was at the band concert that I should have been enjoying. But I didnt say anything or save the kids a trip to the front door. Maybe if I just keep working, they wont notice me, and I wont have to stop to listen to a song, I muttered to myself.
Sure enough, after not getting an answer, the teens walked away and then bypassed my house, with its driveway now looking like a set from Sanford and Son only with more junk. Another neighbor was home, and soon was treated to Christmas classics. Shop to truck to shop to trailer to shop, I caught myself humming along.
A short time later, the teens slid open the doors of the minivans and bundled in for elsewhere. They passed over me after all, I thought, with a guilty combination of satisfaction and disappointment.
Just then, two tall lads surprised me in the driveway as I lifted yet another box into the truck. Merry Christmas! said one, handing me an object that I couldnt make out in the dark. The sad, tired cynicism melted as I welcomed the boys outstretched hand.
We exchanged quick introductions and handshakes, and I asked what church they were from. Were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Evans, they said, as they bid farewell and jogged to the waiting car.
Back in the light, I discovered that the object was a little flowerpot, painted to look like a snow-covered chimney. Inside it was some of the best toffee I have ever tasted - an assessment based partly, Im sure, on the hunger that welcomed it.
At Christmas, it is the little things that have the deepest meaning, little blessings like church kids stopping by with the gift of song for the weary and food for the hungry.
Thus was I fed, body and soul, by angels.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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