An unexpected gift


By Michelle Starkey
Mechanicsburg, Ohio

Second place

The weather had turned cold and dreary with rain clouds hovering over the small town of Mechanicsburg when Jim Samuels decided to stop at the local feed store to pick up supplies for his dairy farm.

“Let’s see,” he told Bob, the store manager. “I need oil, boots, dog food, three bags of horse feed and oh, yeah, pocket knives and gloves for the boys back at the farm. I want to give them a little something for the holidays.”

Bob said that he was a little shorthanded and it would be just a few minutes to get the order ready. As the gentle farmer waited, he walked the store shelves to see what new items had made their way into town.

He had just turned down the second aisle when the new farm toys caught his eye. There were stacks of tractors and wagons with farm implements tucked between them. They came in all sizes, large to small. Suddenly, an idea popped into his mind.

“The little Massie boy would definitely like one of those.”

The Massie boy was the 4-year-old, toe-headed son of the new neighbors next to Mr. Samuels farm. They had arrived on Rosedale Road six months earlier, but had not made any attempts to know the residents of the sleepy little town.

Mr. Samuels had first noticed the young boy shortly after their arrival when he came out of his house and sat in the comer of the field to watch Mr. Samuels cut his hayfield with the 4630 and the discbine. Almost immediately, his mother came shooting out of the house and snatched the boy up and carried him back inside, scolding him the whole way.

This was not the only time the incident occurred. All throughout the summer, each time Mr. Samuels harvested the hay, the same events took place. Finally, the last time the grandfatherly farmer saw the boy, he decided to stop and talk to Mrs. Massie. But she was in too much of a hurry to wait for him to get off of the tractor. She merely waved and took the boy inside.

“That’s not very polite,” Samuels told himself.

He had often wondered why people would move to the country if they were not going to take the time to appreciate it. The little boy was merely curious and if his mother had given Samuels a chance, he would have shown him the tractor and offered to give him a ride.

As the months moved on and the hayfield was abandoned for the other crops that needed harvested, so too was the thought of the little Massie boy. That was, until now. Mr. Samuels picked up a tractor and wagons with the idea that if the preschooler enjoyed the toys, perhaps his mother would let him see the real thing.

Samuels made his purchases and bought a gift bag. Bob was out of cards, but that was all right with the old farmer. It was not important who gave the gift, merely that it was given.

The farmer left the store and turned toward home. Suddenly, the Massie home was before him and he pulled into their drive. He hopped out of his farm truck and knocked on their door. When no one answered, he turned to leave the gift in the door. Just then, Mrs. Massie caught him.

He explained who he was and about the gift. She explained that the boy was napping but Mr. Samuels could come back another time. He handed her the gift and told her that she could give it to him when he awoke. With that said, he turned back to the truck and drove home.

Over the next few days, as his family prepared for Christmas, Mr. Samuels put the little boy in the back of his mind. His wife and daughters talked about the food they would make; his sons, about the gifts they were giving the wives; and the grandchildren, about Santa and all of his wares.

On Christmas Eve, Mr. Samuels walked to his mailbox and retrieved the last of the Christmas cards to arrive. He glanced them over as he carried them to the house. The last card bad no postmark or address. It bad been hand delivered earlier in the day. It was merely addressed: To The Kind Neighbor.

Inside was a folded up picture of black circular scribbles. And tucked inside that was a woman’s gentle hand writing:

Dear Neighbor,
Our son wanted to thank you for the wonderful toys that you gave to him. But my husband and I also wanted to give you our thanks for the greatest gift that you could have ever given us.
You see, our son, Noah, is autistic. He never talks or shows emotion. But when he opened the gift, he smiled and hugged us and said “I love you” nonstop for 45 minutes.
We have never heard those words before. We can never repay you for this miracle.
The Massies

The old farmer tucked the note into the envelope and put the picture on his refrigerator next to the grandchildren’s artwork. He smiled to himself and thought, “Maybe 1 should have taken the time to know them a little better myself.”

Before bed that night, he thanked God for his many blessings and for the idea that brought such happiness to a small family.

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