|The Christmas Scout
In spite of the fun and laughter, 13-year-old Frank Wilson was not happy.
It was true that he had received all the presents he wanted. And he enjoyed these traditional Christmas Eve reunions of relatives – this year at Aunt Susan's – for the purpose of exchanging gifts and good wishes.
But Frank was not happy because this was his first Christmas without his brother, Steve, who, during the year, had been killed by a reckless driver. Frank missed his brother and the close companionship they had together.
Frank said good-bye to his relatives and explained to his parents that he was leaving a little early to see a friend; from there he could walk home. Since it was cold outside, Frank put on his new plaid jacket. It was his favorite gift. The other presents he placed on his new sled.
Then Frank headed out, hoping to find the patrol leader of his Boy Scout troop. Frank always felt understood by him. Though rich in wisdom, he lived in the Flats, the section of town where most of the poor lived, and his patrol leader did odd jobs to help support his family. To Frank's disappointment, his friend was not at home.
As Frank hiked down the street toward home, he caught glimpses of trees and decorations in many of the small houses. Then, through one front window, he glimpsed a shabby room with the limp stockings hanging over an empty fireplace. A woman was seated near them weeping.
The stockings reminded him of the way he and his brother had always hung theirs side by side. The next morning, they would be bursting with presents. A sudden thought struck Frank – he had not done his "good turn" for the day.
Before the impulse passed, he knocked on the door.
"Yes?" the sad voice of the woman inquired.
"May I come in?"
"You are very welcome," she said, seeing his sled full of gifts, and assuming he was making a collection, "but I have no food or gifts for you. I have nothing for my own children."
"That's not why I am here," Frank replied. "Please choose whatever presents you'd like for your children from this sled."
"Why, God bless you!" the amazed woman answered gratefully.
She selected some candies, a game, the toy airplane and a puzzle. When she took the new Scout flashlight, Frank almost cried out. Finally, the stockings were full.
"Won't you tell me your name?" she asked, as Frank was leaving.
"Just call me the Christmas Scout," he replied.
The visit left the boy touched, and with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart. He understood that his sorrow was not the only sorrow in the world. Before he left the Flats, he had given away the remainder of his gifts. The plaid jacket had gone to a shivering boy.
But he trudged homeward, cold and uneasy. Having given his presents away, Frank now could think of no reasonable explanation to offer his parents. He wondered how he could make them understand.
"Where are your presents, son?" asked his father as he entered the house.
"I gave them away."
"The airplane from Aunt Susan? Your coat from Grandma? Your flashlight? We thought you were happy with your gifts."
"I was – very happy," the boy answered lamely.
"But, Frank, how could you be so impulsive?" his mother asked. "How will we explain to the relatives who spent so much time and gave so much love shopping for you?"
His father was firm. "You made your choice, Frank. We cannot afford any more presents."
His brother gone, his family disappointed in him, Frank suddenly felt dreadfully alone. He had not expected a reward for his generosity. For he knew that a good deed always should be its own reward. It would be tarnished otherwise. So he did not want his gifts back, however, he wondered if he would ever again truly recapture joy in his life. He thought he had this evening, but it had been fleeting. Frank thought of his brother and sobbed himself to sleep.
The next morning, he came downstairs to find his parents listening to Christmas music on the radio. Then the announcer spoke:
"Merry Christmas, everybody! The nicest Christmas story we have this morning comes from the Flats. A crippled boy down there has a new sled this morning, another youngster has a fine plaid jacket, and several families report that their children were made happy last night by gifts from a teenage boy who simply referred to himself as the Christmas Scout. No one could identify him, but the children of the Flats claim that the Christmas Scout was a personal representative of old Santa Claus himself."
Frank felt his father's arms go around his shoulders, and he saw his mother smiling through her tears. "Why didn't you tell us? We didn't understand. We are so proud of you, son."
The carols came over the air again filling the room with music.
"...Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on Earth."