The Time of Giving and Good Will

On Christmas Eve the snow was coming down hard, blowing and swirling around my old two-ton dump truck as I drove across the West Virginia mountains.  It had been snowing for hours and had accumulated eight to ten inches deep.  My job was delivering coal to the miners who lived in the coal camp.  I had finished early and was looking forward to getting home.

As I neared the road that led to my home I was flagged down by my stepfather. He told me about a mother with three children who lived about six miles up in the mountains.  Her husband had died several months previously, leaving her destitute.  The miners had assembled several boxes of food, clothing and gifts that they wanted me to deliver, along with a load of coal, to the family.

Now I had worked hard all day and wanted to get home, but this was Christmas Eve, the time of giving and good will.  I turned the truck around and went to pick up the coal and the gifts.  Then I set off.

I drove up the valley as I had been directed, and turned off the road into a hollow called Lick Fork.  The “road” was actually a snow-filled creek bed and for a minute I began to have doubts that I could make it.  Nevertheless, I shifted into first gear and crept ahead.

When I came to the place where I was supposed to turn into the mountain to get to the widow’s house, my heart dropped.  There before me was a winding path that had been hand-cut up the side of the mountain.  I could not see her house and I decided there was no way I could get my truck up through that path.  So I got out and started walking.

The path was six feet wide, overhung with snow-covered branches and littered with stumps and limbs.  Finally I reached the clearing where the house stood, a little shack with thin walls and cracks you could see through.  “Lord, what am I doing here?” I asked.

There was only one thing to try to do.  I walked back to my truck, started up the engine, turned the truck around and went into reverse.  Foot by foot that old truck backed up along that mountain path.  “I’ll just keep going until I can’t go any farther.” I kept telling myself.

Then all at once I was sitting there in the dark with my taillights reflecting through the snow on that little shack.  And standing on the porch were four of the happiest people I had ever seen.

I unloaded the boxes and then dumped the coal, shoveling as much as I could under the sagging porch.  As I worked, the thin, ill-clothed children dragged and pushed the boxes into the shack.  When I had finished, the woman grasped my hand and thanked me over and over.  After the good-byes, I got into the truck and started back.  Darkness had overtaken me.  However, upon reaching the “road” I stopped the truck and looked back at the path.  “There is no way,” I said to myself, through all that snow, in the dark, without help from somewhere.”

I had been raised to love God.  And that Christmas Eve, in the hills of West Virginia, I knew I had been an instrument of what Christmas is all about.

                                  H.N. Cook as told to his daughter Patsy C. Godsey

                                    via George St.; St.  Marys, WV, church bulletin

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