December 4, 2022

A Gathering of Gifts

The voice said to go, so I went.

Esther Lucile Holland

It was Tuesday morning, just 12 days before Christmas, and I was missing the Christmas spirit. Nothing seemed the same since Pop’s death. I just wanted to forget the whole thing, but my three grandsons wanted their children to remember Christmas at Nana’s house. I wanted to make it happen, but there was so much to do. Not a gift had been wrapped; not a card addressed and mailed; and the house was cluttered. The only thing completed related to Christmas was the tree, and even that was accomplished by my great-grandsons. 

My sister cared for three children so their daddy could work. His wife and their mother had left them. I had seen them only two times. The boy was 6, and his sisters were 5 and 3. The family was poor, and the girls didn’t have a nice dress between them. There were so many reasons I needed to be home, but I had a strong impression I should visit Martha’s Outlet, a little girls’ dress shop. Of all places for me to go! We had no little girls in my family—only the four boys. And I was busy. The Christmas to-do list was long and never-ending. I didn’t want to go to town, but the feeling that I must go grew so strong that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. A voice seemed to shout, “GO NOW!” I dropped what I was doing and drove to the store. 

There were several women in Martha’s Outlet that day. I went to the rack of slightly imperfect clothing, which were marked down because of a need of some small repair. The dress I picked out for the 5-year-old had a small place on the collar that needed mending. I could easily fix it. Even with the manager’s assistance, though, I couldn’t find anything suitable for the 3-year-old on that reduced rack. 

Suddenly one of the women who heard me explain to the manager what I was looking for and why came up to us and said, “I have a refund coming of more than $16. I’m in a hurry and can’t spend any more time looking. Would you accept my refund on clothes for those little girls?” Nearly speechless, I said, “That’s wonderful. Thank you so very much.” Then, just as suddenly as she appeared, she was gone. 

The manager picked out a pretty dress for the 3-year-old. When she saw the refund receipt, the manager exclaimed, “That woman had almost $20 coming!” so we decided to get some underwear and socks for each of the girls. I would pay the difference. While we were getting the items, the store clerk picked out pretty socks: her gift to the little girls. 

When everything was rung up, the stranger’s refund covered the entire amount except $6. The shop manager said, “I am paying the rest. Take your $6 and buy something for the little boy.” Needless to say, I thanked our heavenly Father then and there for His love and care of His earthly children. 

Sabbath morning the children’s classes sang “Away in a Manger” for church. Those three little ones looked angelic as they sang. 

By the way, neither the shop manager nor any of the rest of us have ever seen or discovered who the kind woman was in Martha’s Outlet that day. She was surely used by God to bless those children and make Christmas real to me that year.