Charity Once there was a little girl named Rose who came to live in an orphanage. As Christmas time grew near, all of the other children began telling Rose about the beautiful Christmas tree that would appear in the huge downstairs hall on Christmas morning. A generous older man always donated a box of oranges for the children. After their usual, very plain breakfast, each child would be given their one and only Christmas gift; a single orange. The oranges were strung with loops and placed on the tree. The children told Rose how beautiful the dark orange color looked against the pine boughs and how wonderful the citrus and pine fragrance was that filled the air.
On Christmas Eve, as Rose lay in her bed she tried to sleep. She held perfectly still and closed her eyes. But no matter how hard she tried to sleep, she kept thinking about the oranges that would be on the tree, the oranges that she would finally get to taste in the morning! The night slowly crept by, and when she could stand in no longer, she slipped out of bed and quietly tiptoed to the door and down the hall to the banister railing. Kneeling down, Rose gazed in wonder at the beautiful tree with the prized oranges and shimmering candles trimming it. She knelt there for only a moment, then just as silently walked back to her bed. She lay down and was, at last able to sleep. The headmaster of the orphanage Mr. Crampton, was very stern and he thought Christmas to be a bother. Unfortunately, Mr. Crampton had seen Rose quietly taking a peek at the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning he sharply declared that Rose was to be punished because she had gotten out of bed without permission. She would have to spend the day alone, doing chores and would not receive her Christmas orange. The children were all devastated. The joy had been taken out of the morning for all of the children. They knew how much Rose had been looking forward to tasting her first orange. The had all told her how wonderful oranges were and had been waiting to see her face as she tasted one for the first time. Sadly, the children went about their chores as they did every day. Later, that evening as the children entered the sleeping room, everyone looked at Rose huddled on her bed with a tear stained face. The children gathered around Rose as she sobbed “This has been the worst day I have ever had. I didn’t know it was so wrong to look at the tree, and now I’ve missed it and the beautiful oranges.” The children hugged her, “Don’t cry anymore, we have a surprise for you.” From a pinafore pocket came a small white bundle that was placed in Rose’s hands. There, in her hand was a handkerchief that had been taken from the clean laundry that afternoon. It was carefully folded into a round object. Rose hardly dared to hope that this might be what she thought it was. She looked up at the children gathered around her bed. In the faint light she could see the excitement on their faces as they watched her every move. With shaking fingers, Rose peeled back the corners for the handkerchief, and there, in the palm of her hand, was an orange! Not an ordinary orange, but an orange that was lopsided and uneven, and orange made up of a segment from each child’s orange. While the children had sat at the table eating, each one had secretly passed a section of orange down to the girls at the end of
the tables. The girls had put the pieces in the clean handkerchiefs in their pockets. Smell it! Taste it! The children whispered! They watched Rose closely as she puckered then smiled, They all quietly laughed and hugged each other. As if by magic, several more clean, orange filled handkerchiefs were pulled from pinafore pockets and opened up. The orange segments were quickly broken into smaller pieces and one was given to every child. While the children enjoyed the last of the Christmas oranges, they all commented on how they had never had such sweet fruit before. This year’s oranges were the best by far. The oranges were best that day because they were sweetened with friendship, kindness and love. Those oranges were sweetened by charity. (The kind woman who brought me sandwiches and read this story last Sunday, continued to say that Charity is the pure love of Christ. It is the love that Christ has for us. It is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and the most joyous to the soul. Thank you for making this Christmas and past year so sweet for Ken and I! You blessed our souls with your generosity and kindness. We pray that the fruits of your kindness would sweeten your days and that you would feel God’s love, grace, and goodness in abundance. With much love and gratitude, Ken and Jill, Tyler and Dylan Cook!)