Ten-year-old Jacob sat on the couch in the living room of their small family home watching T.V. It was almost 6:00pm on a Friday afternoon in early December. Christmas was exactly two weeks away. Jacob, a kind, loving, and smart young boy, and his two younger sisters were so excited. They couldn’t wait for the gifts to come. Erika, his eight-year-old sister, was hoping for a barbie doll; it would be her first. Holly, the four-year-old, really wanted that giant stuffed panda she saw when they were at the Walmart the other day. When Holly saw it, she immediately ran to it and wrapped her arms around it. Her mom had to forcibly remove her hands in order to get her to move away from it. Holly cried the rest of the shopping trip and wouldn’t stop staring back at the store as they drove away from it. For Jacob, he didn’t really care what he got for Christmas. What he really liked about Christmas was spending time with his family. They did a lot of fun things around Christmas time. They would play games, go out to eat, go to a movie, and usually go for a drive somewhere. “Mom! Dad’s home!” Jacob suddenly yelled as he turned his head and looked out the window.
Outside in the driveway, standing by his car, was Charles Stafford, the father of these three young children. For several minutes he stood there periodically slamming his hand on the roof of his warn out old 1980 Chevy Citation. It was his father’s old car. It became his after his father died. “He’s not happy!” Jacob shouted. “Something’s wrong!”
Holly, hearing Jacob’s shouting, ran into the living room and stared through the window at her father. Tears started flowing from her eyes as she saw her dad wipe the tears from his. “Mommy!” Holly yelled as she ran to the kitchen where her mother was preparing dinner.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Stafford calmly asked as Holly hugged her legs. “Why are you crying?”
“Da…dad…daddy’s crying,” she sobbed out an answer.
“Come on,” Mrs. Stafford said as they walked into the living room.
As she stepped into the living room, Mrs. Stafford looked out the window. Just as she did so, Charles slammed his hand on the top of the car again. “Stay here,” she told Jacob. Holly and Erika, who was now sitting in the cushiony chair next to the couch.
Mrs. Stafford walked outside to greet her husband. Upon seeing her, he rushed to her and puts his arms around her. For the next few minutes while their parents were outside talking, Jacob, Erika, and Holly stood by the window watching them. When their parents began walking to the door, Jacob and Erika quickly took a seat on the couch while Holly, unsure where the parents were going, continued looking out the window. “Holly,” Jacob whispered. “Come here. It’s okay.”
Holly ran to the couch. With the help of Jacob and Erika, she climbed onto it and took a seat in the middle. Their parents walked in the room, each taking a seat near the kids. “I have something to tell you,” their father stated. “You’re going to be seeing a lot more of me for now; at least until I find a new job.”
“You lost your job?” asked Jacob.
“So, we’re not gonna get any Christmas presents?” questioned Erika.
Although she did not fully understand everything that was being said, four-year-old Holly, upon hearing the words “not” and “Christmas,” immediately turned and looked at her mother with a frown on her face. Sad feelings were overcoming her.
“Now…,” dad began. “Don’t worry. We’ll still have Christmas. You just may not get a lot or get what you’re hoping for. But it’ll be okay. Your mom still has her part time job. We’ll just have to make sure we are spending our money wisely.”
“He’s right,” mom added. “It’ll all work out. Your dad and I decided we’re all going to the beach tomorrow. So, let’s go eat dinner. Then get your stuff ready for tomorrow. After that it’s bedtime.”
Once dinner was finished, with the help of their father, Jacob and Erika got their favorite beach toys, canopy, and other things together and loaded them into the trunk of the car. After that, the whole family headed to their bedrooms hoping to get a good night’s sleep.
While Jacob lay in bed, thoughts about Christmas and his dad losing his job invaded his mind. Eventually, other thoughts also came to mind. They were thoughts of God and prayer. Feeling a strange, unfamiliar impression, for the first time in his life, Jacob decided to pray. At first, he remained in bed laying on his back staring at the ceiling above his head; occasionally saying a few things. Then, memories of a scene from a T.V. show he once watched came to mind. He sat up, put his hands together, and said a few words. Finally, thinking he needed to do more, he climbed out of bed and knelt on the floor. With his arms folded and his head bowed he began, “God. Whoever you are. Please help us. Please help my family. My dad is sad. My mother, too. My sisters are afraid this Christmas will not be good. I don’t need any presents. My family is my present, but please help. I beg of you. Please.”
When he was finished speaking, Jacob sat there on the floor; feelings of peace and comfort overcoming him, warming his heart. Once he climbed into bed, he immediately fell asleep. It was the best night’s sleep he had ever had.
The next morning the entire family awoke, ate a quick breakfast, and headed to the beach. It was a nice day outside. The sun was shining brightly. When they arrived at the beach, they grabbed their stuff from the car. Quickly they set up their beach canopy and laid out their blanket. Erika pulled out her tiny little shovel and started building a sandcastle. Mom walked Holly to the water where she hoped to teach her how to swim. Dad sat under the canopy watching the family he loved. Jacob, who liked to wander around, started walking down the beach looking for seashells. Eventually, Jacob, who was about a hundred yards from any of his family members, was approached by an older looking man.
“What are you looking for?” the man asked.
Jacob, who was staring at the ground as the man spoke jerked his head up. The man smiled. Not recognizing the man as someone he knew; Jacob backed away a little.
“What are you looking for?” the man asked again.
“Uh…,” a nervous Jacob began. “Seashells. I like to collect seashells.”
“Seashells can be nice. I used to collect seashells. What about these?’ the man said as held up a round shiny, gold colored object.
“What is that?” Jacob asked.
“It’s a marble.”
“It looks too big to be a marble.”
“Marbles come in different sizes,” the man said. “Some are really small, and others are a little bigger. This one is a little bigger than most marbles. Here, take a look at it.”
The man handed the marble to Jacob. Jacob, feeling less nervous, took hold of the marble and looked it over.
“What’s that say on there?” he asked, seeing what appeared to be very tiny letters engraved on the marble’s surface.
“’Give to receive’,” the man replied.
“What’s that mean?”
“When you help others, you may be blessed. Or you may not…”
As the man spoke, Jacob continued looking over the marble paying little attention to what he was being told.
“This feels a little heavier than the marbles I have at home,” Jacob interrupted.
“Like I said,” the man answered, “it’s a little bigger than most marbles. Well, I must go.”
“Okay,” Jacob said as he stretched out his arm to return the marble to the man.
“It’s for you,” the man stated as he turned to walk away. “Your prayer has been answered. You have been blessed.”
Upon hearing the man’s words, Jacob retracted his arm and looked down at the marble again. When he glanced up to thank the man, he was gone. Jacob then returned to where his family was. His father was now standing by the shore. His mother, along with his sister Holly, were sitting under the canopy. Erika was still working on her sandcastle. Jacob took a seat next to his mother on the blanket beneath the canopy. As he sat there, he couldn’t stop staring at the marble. Eventually, his mother saw what he was doing. “Where’d you get that?” she asked him.
“Oh, some man gave it to me. He said my prayer had been answered and that I was blessed. What’s blessed mean?”
“Prayer,” a shocked mother replied. “When did you pray? How did you learn to pray? Why were you praying?”
“I felt like praying last night. Dad wasn’t happy. He lost his job. Erika and Holly were sad. You didn’t seem very happy either. So, I prayed for us last night.”
“But where did you learn to pray?”
“When I was at my friend Zach’s house last week these two guys came by. They met with Zach’s mom and dad. I heard them talking about prayer as Zach and I were playing video games on the T.V. They said something about talking to God. I’ve heard of God, but don’t know who he is. They said something about asking him for help and answers.”
“Did they show you how to pray?” she asked.
“No, not exactly but before they left, I saw them do something. I think it was praying. They folded their arms like this and closed their eyes. They also lowered their heads. The one that spoke mentioned God while he was talking. I assumed it was praying. I also remembered something from a T.V. show I watched.”
“Well…this is interesting,” Jacob’s mom stated just as his father approached them.
As soon as he was close enough, Jacob’s father saw the golden marble in his hands. “That looks like something my dad use to have,” he immediately stated as he pointed at Jacob. “Can I see it?”
Jacob handed it to his father who quickly inspected it. “Yep, this looks exactly like what my dad used to have. Aside from his wallet, it was the one thing he would always carry with him; wherever he went. I never got to take a close look at it though. Unfortunately, when he died during that boating accident it must have fallen out of his pocket and into the water. It wasn’t in the stack of possessions they gave my mother. What are these words on here? It’s hard to see them.”
“The man said something like always live to believe,” Jacob replied. “No wait. He said, ‘Give to Receive.’”
“So, some strange man gave you this?”
“Yes,” Jacob answered. “He told me my prayer had been answered.”
“Well,” the father said, not paying attention to the word prayer his son mentioned. “You shouldn’t be taking things from strangers, but here you go.”
“No, you keep it dad,” Jacob said. “I think you should have it.”
“Thank you, son,” he replied without hesitation.
A short time later they packed up their stuff and headed to the car. It was lunch time. They were so excited to go to the beach that day that the one thing they forgot to bring was food. When they arrived home, they quickly unloaded the car and headed inside. As they walked through the front door, Jacob immediately saw it out of the corner of his eye. Hanging on the wall was a small picture of his grandfather; a man who died before he was born. It was him. The man who gave him the marble. A smile appeared on Jacob’s face and a tear flowed from his eye as he continued past the picture. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you, God.”
For the rest of the weekend, Charles Stafford couldn’t stop thinking about the smooth golden marble his son had given him. All sorts of thoughts came to mind, but one particular thought wouldn’t go away. On Monday morning he awoke early and told his wife he was going to run an errand. Still half asleep she simply replied, “okay.”
Charles, with the marble in hand headed out. He knew exactly where he needed to go. Once he arrived at his destination, he met with the man. The man confirmed his thoughts and the transaction was completed. It was a real solid gold marble. With its weight and the current price of gold he was able to sell it for a fair amount of money. They would now be able to survive until he found a new job. In addition, they would have a wonderful Christmas. Holly got the present she wanted; the giant fluffy panda. Erika also got hers; a small collection of barbie dolls. Jacob also got a present. His was something his parents knew he had been wanting to do but they just hadn’t done. It was a trip to Disney World; the place all of Jacob’s friends had been to but he hadn’t.
For the Stafford family, this Christmas was a miracle. It was the start of what would be a huge spiritual change in their lives.
The above short story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2019 by Joseph Bunch.All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, scanning, uploading, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying, recording, or by any other storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.
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