As shoppers walked past, and Christmas music rang through the air, no one seemed to notice the man standing there. Why would they? He looked just like most of the folks out scrambling to get their shopping done before Christmas. Everyone had their mind focused on what they had to get done.
Mr. Baker walked more slowly than the rest of the crowd as he began to make his way out of the mall. He only wanted to buy one gift, but he couldn't even afford to do that.
His face was forlorn and his head dropped as he sadly made his way out into the winter cold. His thin coat was not enough to keep out the raw winter chill of the wind that blew that day, but he didn't feel it much for he already felt so cold on the inside; so much in despair.
People brushed past him hurrying into the shopping plaza, and one lady almost knocked him over. "So sorry!" She exclaimed as she kept moving quickly toward the door. "Have a Merry Christmas!" He looked back at her with emptiness in his face. How did she miss it?
It was a long walk around the corner and down several blocks before Mr. Baker arrived at his destination. The warm air hit him in the face as he stepped inside the sterile building. As he reached the main desk he heard his name. "Mr Baker..." "Yes?" he replied turning in the direction of the voice. "The doctor wants to see you."
Mr. Baker's stomach turned over with fear as he followed the nurse down the long hall.
"Dr. Monroe... how... how is she?" The doctor hesitated, "She is not doing well Mr. Baker. We're very concerned but we want you to know we are doing everything we possibly can.
She was already weak and the fever doesn't want to break.”
Mr. Baker put his head in his hands and began to weep. "Doc... she's all I have... please... she's so young..."
The doctor put his hand on the man's arm and said, "I know, and we promise we are doing everything. Try to get some rest."
Mr. Baker opened the door and peered in quietly. Her long blonde hair hung around her sweet face as she slept. Sweat dripped from her brow as the nurse mopped her forehead with a cool cloth. "Would you like a few minutes with her?" asked the nurse. "P..please." he responded. He walked over and pushed back her soft hair and ran his hand across her forehead. A tear fell from his eyes and splashed on her cheek, and he wiped it away. He leaned over and gave her a kiss and said "God... what have I done? Why? First my wife, then my job, and now.... now... my sweet Carley. Lord... take me... NOT her!" With that, he gathered himself and left the room. It seemed like the hall was longer than before as he headed for the door. "I've got to do something." He thought. "We have no place to stay, no food, and I don't even have a simple Christmas gift for my girl." He made his way back down the road and turned into the doorway of the bank.
"Please let me see Mr. Manning." He said to the lady at the desk. "I'm right here Doug." Mr Manning was a tall dashing man, with gray at his sideburns and a dark blue suit.
"Jack.... Carley is really sick. She's in the hospital. I don't know what to do. I've no job, and I can't even get her a gift for Christmas. I..... I... don't even know if she's..." "Now stop there Doug. She is going to be okay. We won't think otherwise." Mr. Manning gave Doug Baker a light squeeze. "Now what can I do for you?" He continued.
"Is there any way the bank can give me a small loan... just until I find work?" Doug had no where else to turn. "Doug you know we can't give you any kind of loan without a work reference. I wish we could, but...." at that moment Doug interrupted, "Nevermind Jack. I know, I just hoped... maybe...." Doug turned and began to head for the door. "Doug..." Mr. Manning called to him, "Please let me know how Carley is. We will keep her in our prayers." Doug nodded and headed back into the cold.
It was bitter that day. The wind blew right through him as he pulled his coat more tightly around his body. He walked... and walked. His thoughts swirling in his head. Suddenly, he stopped. There he stood at the entrance to the cemetery. Had he walked there on purpose? He could see the big tree. There were icicles hanging from it's branches and it looked like a fairyland! The light rain the evening before had created such a beautiful sight in a place that normally didn't feel very beautiful to Mr. Baker.
He walked to the tree and knelt down in front of the stone at its base. "MaryAnn..... what should I do?" He began to speak. He had never felt very adequate after she died. She was a great mom, and he.... he did not feel he had done a very good job of caring and providing for his young daughter. MaryAnn always prayed when there was a need. He, well, he didn't feel so connected to God.
"But what have I got left God!!!" Doug yelled as he clutched his hands to his chest. "I'll pray.. if you want me to pray... I will pray. If you will restore my daughter's health, then I'll pray and I'll pray and I'll pray!" He dropped his head and began to pray...quietly at first... then louder.
"God.... I don't know how to do this, so I'm just gonna talk to you. God.... whatever I've done to deserve all this, I'm sorry. I don't even know what it is. I've tried my best, but it's not enough. Forgive me Lord........ let your mercy shower my little girl. She is innocent; she has done nothing. She believes in You! "He stopped. Something in those words spoke to him. She believes in Him..... Carley believes in Him!! "Is that it God? Have I not believed?" Doug stood to his feet as if he had found new strength.... he walked toward the gate, then he started to run. A smile broke out on his face. "Okay God..... I believe!! I will believe in You. I will give you everything I have... or don't have.... please...please be with me!!" He ran down the street and around the corner. The cold didn't feel so cold anymore.
Doug burst through the doors of the hospital panting. He came in so fast it startled the nurse at the desk. "Mr. Baker!" She said firmly, "Where have you been. Dr. Monroe was looking for you." "Where is he?" Doug inquired. The nurse pointed as she continued to stare at Mr. Baker's new found energy.
Mr Baker made his way down the hall toward Carley's room. As he entered, he heard a giggle. Both Dr. Monroe and Carley turned to look at Doug. "I've been trying to find you," the doctor said. "Her fever has broken. She's going to be fine with a few more days rest." Doug raced to her bedside and held her tightly as he cried. "Daddy... why are you crying?" Carley asked. He looked into her deep blue eyes and said, "I was afraid I'd lose you too baby. I couldn't bare it!" Carley looked up at him and said, "Dad... while I was sleeping, I saw you at the tree."
Doug looked surprised. "You what?" "I saw you at the tree."
She paused. "God was there too. He was standing behind you with His hand on your back." Doug hugged his little girl.
"He heard me didn't he Carley?" "Daddy... God always hears us." Doug gave his little girl a big hug and as he did the nurse came in. "Mr. Baker, this was just delivered. They said you requested it?" She handed Doug a large wrapped gift that said, "To Carley... Merry Christmas".
"Daddy how did you do this?" Carley's eyes got big as silver dollars. Mr. Baker started, "well, I ...uh... well...." Carley ripped the paper from the large box and opened it. Inside was a big, soft stuffed bear. It was almost as big as she was!"
"I LOVE him daddy!!!" She hugged the big bear tightly and Doug was happier than he'd been in a very long time. But he had no idea who'd done such a kind thing. "Mr. Baker," said the nurse. "We need to let Carley rest now. Doug gave his little girl a kiss and said "Rest, I will see you later." She smiled as he left.
As Doug walked down the street toward town he felt so warm on the inside. "Thank you God." he said looking upward. He turned a corner and heard a voice. "Doug!" Doug wheeled around to see Jack Manning standing there. "Doug I've got something for you!" Jack made his way toward Doug. He took Doug's hand and placed something in it. "What's this?" Doug asked as he opened his hand to expose a single key. "My wife and I have a small place that we want you and Carley to use until you get back on your feet Doug. Consider it a Christmas gift if you will. We want to help." Doug was stunned. "Jack, how can I ever...." "Don't give it a second thought Doug. Here are directions.... oh and Mrs. Keeley wants to see you about a job on Monday."
Doug shook Jack's hand. "Thank you so much Jack." "Don't mention it Doug." Mr Manning turned to leave. Then he stopped and looked back. "Oh.. and how about if we pick you both up for church on Christmas? Would you like that?"
Doug paused..."We'd love that Jack." he said with a smile.
Jack headed down the street. "Jack!" Doug gave a holler. Jack wheeled around to look at Doug. "Did you by any chance...." Jack smiled a big grin and said "Merry Christmas Doug. No child should not get a gift on Christmas."
With that, Jack pulled his coat tightly around his neck and disappeared around the corner. Doug tried to yell a big thanks but Jack was gone. As Doug walked down the street toward the little cafe to get a cup of coffee, he felt the warmth of love fill him from head to toe."Thank you God," he said quietly. "And thank you..... for your son."
Merry Christmas to all..... every one.