The Scout Who Saved Christmas
Christmas Eve, 1992, wasn’t particularly cold, but after all, this was Southern California. It was early evening, and my son – a 12-year-old Boy Scout – and I were hunting for the last item we needed – a Christmas tree. Some lots had already sold all their trees and were closing up. Others, open, had trees, but they were just too expensive. This was a difficult winter. I had just become a “single parent.” I had lost my job. Cash was so tight, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make this Christmas anywhere close to merry. Fact was, I was sort of in survival mode.
“If I can just get through the next couple of days,” I thought, “then maybe things will turn out OK.” But, sitting next to me in the car was a bright-eyed boy who, if not Santa Claus anymore, still believed in the spirit of Christmas. I sure didn’t want to disappoint him, or myself, either. Somehow, the few dollars I had left in my pocket would have to be enough for a tree.
We made the rounds. Looked at some trees. Mostly, I tried to pretend they were too tall, or too short, or whatever, when the truth was, I just didn’t have enough money to buy them.
“Hey,” I finally said to my son, “remember that Boy Scout tree lot – the one the Troop in the next town over has, to raise money for their camping trips? We’ve bought lots of trees there, over the years. Maybe they have one just for us, this year!”
“Yeah, Dad, I remember them! Let’s go check ‘em out!” he replied. So, turning the car around, we drove to the next town, and found the Troop’s tree lot – just as it was closing down.
A few Scouts were milling around, picking up stray pieces of twine and small branches that had been trimmed from the tree bottoms for stands to fit, while a couple of fathers were putting saws and unused tree stand wood in the back of a small pickup truck. We parked anyway, and walked over to where they were cleaning up. And there, amidst the last-minute debris, was one lone tree. Not too tall, not too short, with full, bunchy branches still visible in the fading evening light. Quietly tucking one hand in my right pants pocket, I tried to re-count the few dollars I had left, when one of the Scouts – he appeared to be about 16 or 17 – came over to us.
“Hi! Can I help you?” he asked.
“We’re looking for a tree!” blurted my son, while I tried to look as if we might have been there for some other reason. Then, one of the fathers came over, to ask the same question. I just sort of shuffled my feet, feeling the thinness of the folded dollars in my pocket.
“Don’t I know you?” asked the Scout. “Yeah, I know you two,” he said. “You’ve bought trees from us almost every year, ever since I became a Scout six years ago.”
“Say, Dad,” he continued, “you’ve been complaining about what we’re gonna do with that one last tree. How about we give it to these guys. They’ve been good customers of ours ever since I joined the Troop.”
His dad smiled. “Sounds like a good idea to me,” he said. “Want us to tie it to the top of you car?”
“Sure, and I’ll help,” my own son added, and he and the other Scout tied up the branches and then secured the tree to our car.
“Have a Merry Christmas!” that dad and son waved, as we drove from the lot.
“You have no idea just how merry you’ve made this particular Christmas,” I thought as we headed home.
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(Special Christmas Issue 2002)