My family enjoying snow for the first time during Thanksgiving 1974 in Asheville.

Christmas spirit lives

    Christmas miracles come in all shapes and sizes, as I happily learned anew earlier this month.
    Fellow member Hugh Williamson and I were volunteering at the Murphy Rotary Club’s Christmas tree lot on Dec. 1 when a nice fellow came in to purchase a tree for his family. (Our fresh-cut Fraser firs to benefit local charitable and non-profit agencies sold out early this year, so thank you.) We couldn’t find a price tag, and since it looked like the tree next to it marked for $40, that’s the price we sold it to him.
    The next afternoon, Hugh and I were back on the lot. As we were getting ready to shut down after sunset, the same fellow pulled his truck back in. When I went over to say, “Hi,” he handed me a check for $10.
    “We found the price tag hidden down one of the branches,” he said. “Since it was $50, I wanted to make sure ya’ll got the right amount of money since you do such good in the community.”
    Noted writer C.S. Lewis famously said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” This gentleman could have gone his merry way, smiling about saving a few bucks. Instead, he demonstrated the kind of character that embodies the spirit of the Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmastime.
    Selling trees also brought to mind one of my favorite family Christmas stories.
    In 1974, when I was in the fourth grade, we moved from West Palm Beach to Asheville. On Thanksgiving Day, we played in the snow for the first time while helping push cars up the icy hill we lived on. For a south Florida boy, this was a whole ’nuther layer of fun.
    A week or so later, my stepfather thought that since we were mountain people now, it would be fun to go chop down our very own Christmas tree. So my mom, younger sister and I joined him in our Vega – not an easy car to haul something large in – and drove off down the backroads of Buncombe County, searching for the perfect fir.
    After driving what seemed like an eternity to youngsters filled with Christmas dreams, we finally found a wooded area with plenty of perfect-looking trees to choose from. However, before wielding his trusty ax, my stepfather took a long look around for signs of life and spotted smoke rising from a nearby chimney. Not wanting to trespass on someone else’s land, we headed over to the house to see if the land belonged to them and ask permission to be there.
    A grandmotherly woman answered the doorbell. When we told her why we were there, and she saw two shivering kids who hadn’t yet bought a coat compatible with the Smoky Mountains, she quickly welcomed us inside.
    We talked with her husband, an older man who said his family had owned the land for generations, while the woman served us hot apple cider and cookies. This was our first experience with true Southern hospitality, and it warmed us up even more than the fireplace.
    After we sat for a spell, the man told us to take any tree we wanted from his field. So we did, cutting down a 7-footer and somehow managing to tie it to the roof of our subcompact. And another Christmas dream became reality.
    My folks were hippies then, so it might have been understandable if the older couple didn’t instantly take to them. The fact that they treated us like long-lost family still warms my heart today.
    This Christmas, hold your family tight. Make up with anyone you haven’t spoken with in too long. And even when you meet someone new, let them feel the love that’s the real reason for this wonderful season.
    David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; or email, dbrown@cherokeescout.com.