The Night Before Christmas

The boy’s father is wearing a Santa Claus suit, beard, and hat. The boy and Stephen are walking up the sidewalk to the small stucco home in the old neighborhood of Corpus Christi. Their father carries presents in a red sack, and the boy and Stephen each carry an armful of presents. It is Christmas Eve.

“Mom, won’t it be weird that Santa shows up while the kids are still awake?” the boy asked a few hours before.

“Son, they have nothing. They will not be thinking about the timing of Santa’s arrival.”

Their dad knocks on the door, a short Mexican woman opens it, and their dad booms, “Merry Christmas!”

Without a word, the woman lets them in. The front room is tiny with worn carpet and beat up furniture. There is no Christmas tree—instead, a child’s drawing of a Christmas tree hangs on the wall and beneath it are two wrapped presents placed against the wall. Two little boys, probably around six and four, come in from their bedrooms. They both wear pajama pants but no shirts.

“Merry Christmas, Jose and Miguel!” their father booms.

Miguel squeals, “Dios mio! Papa Noel!”

Tears stream down their mother’s face. Santa sits on the couch, hoists Jose on his lap, and pulls a present from the sack—it’s a Tonka truck and Jose stares wide-eyed. All the gifts have been bought new and donated by members of the ward. Santa gives each boy at least four presents.

They say good night and head back to the car. The boy has never been to such a tiny, beat up house, never seen such wear and tear inside, never understood what it is to go without a Christmas tree and presents. He knows that he is supposed to learn about Christmas here, about giving and not receiving, about acting like Jesus.

Several months later, he is riding in the minivan with his mother. “Mom, whatever happened to that family we brought all the presents to? Where did was Santa? I never see them at church or anything.”

“They live in our ward but mostly go to the Spanish ward.”

“Oh. Are things better for them?”

His mother sighs. “No. They pawned all the Christmas gifts.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because when your choice is toy trucks or don’t eat or lose your home, you get rid of the toy trucks.”

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