Our small house had three bedrooms. We had only been in the house for about four months and we had very few possessions. The kids were all sleeping on mats or sleeping bags on the bedroom floors. We had not found any good used beds yet and so we were making due. Our clothes were in dressers as I had been given some old dressers that we solid and still had a lot of wear left in them. The house was small, but we loved it. We liked the neighborhood and the people. We loved starting life in a new place and making new friends.
We were snug, and often slept together in one of the rooms. It made them feel secure, and it made me feel close to them -- a blessing I wouldn't have had in other circumstances. Sometimes we would all have a "camp out" on the living room floor. It was fun and brought us closer together as a family.
It was early evening, about six or seven o'clock. The sun had set and my children and I were reading in the living room. I was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the couch and reading Christmas stories to them. It was always one of our traditions, we would read a story and sing Christmas carols by the tree. Suddenly, my front door vibrated with a pounding fist.
Alarmed, I wondered who would stop by unannounced on the night before Christmas. I opened the door to find a group of strangers grinning from ear to ear, their arms laden with boxes and bags.
Confused, but finding their joyous spirit contagious, I grinned right back at them.
"Are you Patty?" The man stepped forward as he held out a box for me. The gift was wrapped in bright paper and bows. Nodding silently, I was unable to find my voice, and I felt tears spring to my eyes.
"These are for you." The woman thrust a large bag at me with a huge, beaming smile. I had no idea who these strangers were. I remember that I asked them if they were sure that they had the right house. They laughed and assured me that they were exactly where they were supposed to be.
My eyes filled with tears as the realization of why they were there washed over me.
Finally, coming to my senses, I found my voice and invited them in. Following the man were several teenagers, none of whom I knew, staggering with the weight of their packages. The group told me their packages were all gifts for my family. This wonderful, beautiful group of people, who were total strangers to me, somehow knew exactly what we needed. They had brought wrapped gifts for each of us, and many "extras" that I could never afford. Yet, they were not finished. Out into the night this small army of angels went and brought back into my home bunk-beds. A bed for each one of the children. Three beds for the girls room and three beds for the boys room. I was amazed. This was more than I had even dared to dream of. Not only did they bring new beds, they brought mattresses, pillows, sheets, and blankets and they put them all together before they left for the evening. Somehow my secret wish for Christmas was materializing right in front of me. The desperate prayers of a single mother had been heard, and I knew right then that Heavenly Father had sent his earthly angels my way.
My mysterious angels then handed me a white envelope, gave me another round of grins, and took turns hugging me. They wished me a Merry Christmas and disappeared into the night as suddenly as they had appeared. I still did not know who they were, what organization (if any) they were from, or how they had found out about us.
Amazed and deeply touched, I looked around me at the boxes and wrapped gifts strewn at my feet and felt the ache of depression suddenly being lifted into joy. I knew, as surely as if I had seen a group of real angels, that my Father in Heaven was mindful of me. I knew that He knew my needs and the desires of my heart. Most of all, I knew He really loved me. I began to cry. I cried hard, sobbing tears of the deepest gratitude. When my tears were finally all spent, a calming sense of peace filled my heart. The knowledge of God's love reaching into the darkness of my corner of the world enveloped me like a warm quilt. My heart was full. With gratitude in my heart, I fell to my knees amid all the boxes and bags and offered a heartfelt prayer of thanks.
Sitting back up, I suddenly, I remembered the envelope. I shakily opened the flap and gasped at what I saw. I had thought that the generosity of strangers was complete. Instead, a shower of bills flitted to the floor. Gathering them up, I began to count them. As my vision blurred with yet more tears, I counted the money, then recounted it to make sure I had it right. Sobbing again, I said it out loud: "One hundred dollars."
Tucked in with the money was a simple note that said, "Thank you for giving us this opportunity to serve you. We have loved preparing this surprise and we have been eagerly looking forward to this day. Know that you are loved and that someday you will also have the opportunity to make someone else's Christmas dreams come true."
That was all. It was not signed. I still did not know who those people were, nor have I ever found out.
I looked in the rooms at my children who were now sleeping soundly on their freshly made beds. My heart was full and I remember feeling more at peace and loved than I had felt in a long, long time. Tomorrow would be a wonderful Christmas Day. One visit from complete strangers had magically turned a painful day into a special one that we would always remember...with joy, thanksgiving, and happiness.
It is now many,many years since our Christmas angels visited. Those small children have grown and now have families of their own. I have remarried, and our household is happy and richly blessed. Every year since that Christmas, I have tried to help others less blessed than my family. I volunteer to buy or make them carefully selected gifts. The children have all participated and been willing to give of themselves to help others. It has been our way of passing on what was given to us. It's like a pebble that is dropped in the water and the ripples go out in ever widening circles on the water. That first deed from my Christmas angels was the pebble and today the circles continue reaching far out into the lives of others.