- By: Healthy Beings Staff
- December 20, 2021
- 3 Min read
“Thank you and Merry Christmas,” I said as I handed off my second-to-last Christmas tree to the awaiting couple. They took it with a nod and a smile, their eyes alight with the joy of the upcoming holiday. But as they dragged the tree away, my heart swelled with a sudden sadness. It was Christmas Eve, and I still had one tree left to sell. It was unlikely anyone else would come by for it as it was getting late.
A cold breeze blew through the empty streets. Twinkling lights hung from the buildings, with red, green, and gold baubles hanging off bushes and fences. Even the man dressed as Santa had gone home for the night. Only myself and the collection girl who continued to ring her silver bell despite the lack of customers remained.
I watched the girl, curious why she didn’t leave, too. All month long, she had been the only one ringing that bell and manning the collection pail. Every day, I had watched from my Christmas tree farm as shoppers and tourists turned up their noses at her, refusing to donate or even listen to the sweet sound of the ringing bells.
Now, I wondered if she had anywhere else to go. Perhaps she was like me: a mid-twenties girl living far from home. Maybe she was lonely. With a glance back at the mid-size evergreen still waiting to be purchased, I had an idea. I abandoned my post and approached the lone girl.
She stopped ringing her bell as soon as I stood before her. “Oh, hello. Care to donate?”
“Sure,” I said and tossed a few coins into her pail. That was when I noticed how thin and shabby her clothes were, how her cheeks were bright red with cold and windburn.
“I was wondering,” I said, “and I’m sorry if this seems forward—did you have anywhere to go tonight?”
The girl looked away as she said, “I often spend Christmas Eve alone. No family or friends in the city.”
My gut wrenched. “That’s okay, me too.” I smiled. “Say, there’s one tree left in my farm. Do you want to take it home with me so we can decorate it together? My apartment is small, but….”
“Okay,” the girl perked up, blushing. “I mean…That sounds nice.”
I gave her an encouraging smile and helped her lock up her pail, which only had a few donations. I prepared the tree to be moved, ensuring it was wrapped and tied correctly. Thankfully, my apartment was just a few blocks down the road. The girl helped me carry the tree to my apartment, chatting quietly about how she had gotten her donation job.
Once we stumbled inside, she helped me set the tree in the corner of the small living room. The kitchen and the living space were connected, with only a small hallway leading into the bedroom. I lit a few candles, suddenly self-conscious.
“I told you, it’s a little small,” I said as I bent down to cover the base of the tree with a spare kitchen towel.
“It’s perfect,” the girl said. And when I turned around, she gave me a grateful look—one that gave me a warm feeling. “Thank you. For the invitation.”
I put on some Christmas records, and together, we pulled out boxes of ornaments that I had stored away. Most of them had dust on them, and I was grateful for the chance to decorate again.
The girl and I laughed and talked and sang along to the music. I couldn’t believe that I had never bothered to introduce myself to her until now. It was the best decision I had made all month. And as we topped the tree with a glittering star, I decided it looked perfect, sitting there in my tiny little apartment.
Afterward, I made hot chocolate for the two of us. We sat sipping it on the couch, discussing our hopes and dreams, our reasons for moving to this city. Neither of us checked the time, though I was sure we stayed up for hours—well into the wee hours of Christmas morning.
And as we sipped hot chocolate and grew to know each other, I realized that I had never felt more whole. This girl had been only a stranger to me, but now, she was as good as a close friend. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the season. That Christmas, I learned new friendship was the greatest gift of all.