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       Chicken Soup for the Soul the Book of Christmas Virtues, p.1

           Jack Canfield
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Chicken Soup for the Soul the Book of Christmas Virtues


  Chicken Soup for the Soul®

  The Book of

  Christmas Virtues

  Inspirational Stories

  to Warm the Heart

  Jack Canfield

  Mark Victor Hansen

  with

  Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Backlist, LLC, a unit of

  Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC

  Cos Cob, CT

  www.chickensoup.com

  Dedicated to those

  who seek

  the comfort of home,

  the company of friends

  and the essence of Christmas.

  May you discover it all

  within these pages.

  Contents

  Introduction: Reflections

  Value from Virtues: How to Use This Book

  Joy

  Finders, Keepers

  Homestead Holiday Margaret Lang

  With Gladness and Glue Nancy B. Gibbs

  Decking the Halls with Balls of Jolly Woody Woodburn

  The Debut Mary Kerr Danielson

  Music to My Ears Margaret Middleton

  I Wonder Mary Kerr Danielson

  Gone Logo

  Simplicity

  Simply So

  Tending the Home Fires Jim West

  Bringing Christmas Toby Abraham-Rhine

  A Hush in the Rush Ann K. Brandt

  Whittle-ed A Way Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Bottomed Out Margaret Kirk

  Secret Ingredients Jane Zaffino

  Common Sense

  Love

  Between the Lines

  Sweets for the Sweet Emily Sue Harvey

  Nickled and Dimed Binkie Dussault

  Fair Game James Daigh

  Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like . . . Isabel Bearman Bucher

  Chords of Love Margaret Lang

  Charlie’s Coat Robin Clephane Steward

  Flashing Back Kathryn Beisner

  It’s So Lover-ly

  Kindness

  Mounting Evidence

  Drawn to the Warmth Marion Smith

  School of “Hire” Learning Edmund W. Ostrander

  Surprise Santa Henry Boye

  In the Bag Sheila Myers

  Stroke by Stroke Margaret Lang

  A Slice of Life Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Sealed with a Kiss

  Gratitude

  Steeped in Gratitude

  St. Nick’s Note Pamela Bumpus

  Mother to Mother Annette Seaver

  Chilly Today, Hot Tamale Ellen Fenter

  A Piece of Themselves Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Angels and Angst Sharon Whitley Larsen

  It’s in the Mail

  Faith

  By Leaps and Mounds

  Everybody Loves Santa Robert H. Bickmeyer

  Presence and Accounted For Vickie Ryan Koehler

  Let’s Get Real Charlotte A. Lanham

  Ho, Ho, Hope Angela Hall

  Away from the Manger Stephanie Welcher Thompson

  The Family Tree Carol Keim as told to Tamara Chilla

  Going Global

  Wonder

  Wonder Full

  A Place of Honor Mary Kerr Danielson

  The Lone Caroler Bonnie Compton Hanson

  The Right Touch Steve Burt

  Christmas Derailed Armené Humber

  Troubled Woody Woodburn

  ’Twas the Night Charlotte A. Lanham

  Let It Snow! Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Suitable for Flaming

  Who Is Jack Canfield?

  Who Is Mark Victor Hansen?

  Who Is Carol McAdoo Rehme?

  Contributors

  Permissions

  Introduction

  Reflections

  Holiday greetings, family gatherings, crackling fires, candlelight services, gingerbread men, jingle bells, crunching snow, garlands . . .

  What comes to your mind when you think about Christmas?

  Do you feel excitement? Delight? Wonder? Are you eager to plan, to give, to do? Do you anticipate and participate?

  Or do you hallucinate and disintegrate?

  Too often, we approach Christmas mired in a puddle of tree lights, fighting to untangle, struggling to straighten things out—the lights, ourselves. We get caught in the clamor of consumerism. We drown in debt.

  Worst of all, we forget.

  We forget to focus on the pure, unadulterated joy of the season. The kind of wholesome pleasure that seeps into our minds, sneaks onto our lips and slips throughout our souls. That indefinable, unexplainable, indescribable . . . cleansing . . . that washes over us until we are cleaner and clearer, bigger and brighter. Indeed, until we are better than ourselves.

  And where do we find this elusive something?

  Within each of us lies the possibility of “betterness” and the ability to achieve a higher level of moral excellence by adopting virtuous qualities. And what better time than Christmas to discover, develop and nurture a virtue?

  Christmas, a season of newness, offers us the opportunity for personal renewal. The chance to change ourselves, alter our course, remake our lives. Oh, not necessarily on a grand scale. Small increments—baby steps—will do.

  And that is what we offer within the pages of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Book of Christmas Virtues—inspiration to assist your quest for virtue. A collection of stories to encourage retrospection, introspection and quiet reflection.

  Our own inspiration comes from the Advent season itself. Perhaps your family, too, reads Scripture and lights candles each Sunday during the month of December, each week focusing on a specific theme. In that same spirit, we selected seven virtues that are symbolic of Christmas: Kindness, Joy, Love, Gratitude, Faith, Simplicity and Wonder. All are characteristics that kindle a light within.

  We designed a thought-provoking essay to introduce each virtue and a creative end-of-chapter activity to reinforce it. Then we read through stacks and stacks of stories. Stories that Chicken Soup readers—exactly like you—wrote and shared. Stories that depicted the same virtues we chose to emphasize. Stories that encouraged us. Stories that stirred and fired us. Stories that raised us to a higher plane.

  From them, we selected the accounts within these pages, anecdotes of all shapes and sizes, exactly like the people who wrote them. After all, as a wise man once noted, “A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it.”

  The final product is this treasury of holiday stories, emphasizing the good, the uplifting and the righteous— all without sermonizing. The virtues are evident; the lessons are heartfelt; the journey is one of joy. The Book of Christmas Virtues sparkles with the charm of a tinseled tree and crackles with the warmth of a wood-burning stove . . . even as it rings with the familiar voice of home.

  Someone once said, “Telling a story is a gift of love.” And so, our gift to you this holiday season is in the telling.

  Carol McAdoo Rehme

  Value from Virtues:

  How to Use This Book

  Use it as a family reader: Take turns reading aloud from it each night. There are enough stories for the entire month of December . . . and more.

  Supplement Advent: Pick one of the virtues as your weekly theme, and end each week with the suggested activity.

  Use it for holiday teas and luncheons: Share a story or two with the group as entertainment.

  Place the book on your coffee table: It is sure to be a constant reminder, year after year, of the true meaning of Christmas.

  Give this book as a gift: The only thing better than feeling the holiday spirit is sharing it.

  Try the activities: Use thes
e ideas to reinforce your virtues and engage your family.

  Joy

  Finders, Keepers

  Sixty-eight-year-old Ella found it as a volunteer in the newborn nursery at her local hospital: fulfillment cuddling her special charge, a new-to-this-Earth preemie whose downy delicacy made her wonder at the fragileness of life.

  Up to her elbows in mud, Cassandra noticed it each evening when she straddled her potter’s wheel: mindless ecstasy in the art of shaping objects of beauty. A quiet bliss in the act of creation itself.

  Rebellious and edgy, Natasha felt it seep into her consciousness during her court-mandated community service: self-satisfaction in a job well done. A sense of pride she’d never before encountered in her thirteen years.

  Ken caught it each time he exchanged his Wall Street suit for his Scout-leader shirt: jubilation in the act of pitching camp that he rarely felt on the trading floor. An exuberance as each of his charges mastered a new skill, earned a higher rank and inched a step closer to moral manhood.

  José, fresh from massage school, discovered it at the feet of an elderly client: gratification—and humility—as he kneaded out knots and rubbed her coarse calluses, as he felt her pain-wracked body ease, one tensed muscle after another.

  The entire Price family—all eight of them—encountered it the year they “gave away” Christmas: an elation, they agreed, greater than any they would have felt had they kept all those gifts for themselves.

  So what exactly was it that made these human hearts sing?

  Joy. A virtue all of us desire, most of us seek, and each of us would like to claim.

  Joy. Such a small, unassuming word—only three letters long— yet often elusive, teasing and winking just beyond our reach.

  Joy. What is it? Where can we find it? And . . . how can we keep it?

  A veteran fisherman friend put it this way: “Joy works like the bobber on my line; it keeps me from sinking too low.” That definition is as plausible and accurate as any a scientist could contrive.

  Although we might not be able to easily explain the sensation of joy, we’ve all witnessed it and—if we’re fortunate—experienced it: a kind of happiness-in-action. Sometimes it arrives carbonated— playful, positive and bubbling with festivity. Often, we feel it sneak in—buttoned-up, quiet, satisfying, poignant. And then there’s the most expansive brand—with a label that reads joie de vivre—that comes bundled with restless curiosity, an appetite for life and a passion for discovery.

  No matter how it’s packaged, joy is a love song to life. Its lilting melody weaves a harmonious medley of giving, doing, having, being, experiencing and trying. It resonates on notes of optimism, geniality and delight. It feeds your soul.

  You’ll recognize joy—the famed bluebird of happiness—when you invite it in and offer it a shoulder to perch on.

  You can discover it through sacrifice and service or in creativity and purpose. You can find it in tender moments and in exhilarating events. You might recognize it in the promise of a day’s dawning or the satisfaction of twilight’s final nod.

  But is it possible to hold on to that sense of joy? Of course. Although joy is often described as fleeting, it is possible to create it again and again. George Bernard Shaw once proclaimed, “The joy in life is to be used for a purpose. And I want to be used up when I die.”

  So invest yourself in a purpose this holiday season: your time, your energy, your talents, your emotions. Spend yourself freely . . . and discover joy.

  Homestead Holiday

  I had so wanted to celebrate Christmas at the two-hundred-year-old farmhouse, surrounded by the love of the dear relatives who had labored to preserve it. A delightful throwback to an era of simplicity—no phones to jangle nerves, no electric lights to glare in eyes—the place veritably shouted, “Christmas!” But first things first; we had to settle in.

  “Let’s make it easier for our folks to get up,” I said to my cousins on our first morning at the old homestead.

  We drew well water in tall buckets and carried split logs chin high. Soon a kettle whistled on the cast-iron stove. In each bedroom, we poured warm water into the pitchers of porcelain wash sets.

  Our efforts paid off. Our sleepy-eyed parents climbed out of Victorian beds to chat over cinnamon rolls and coffee.

  We girls cranked the Victrola in the parlor and pedaled the empty spinning wheel in the hall. Everything about this place was a novelty. We read century-oldmagazines in the barn and memorized epitaphs in the family cemetery.

  We bathed in the fresh waters of Connor Pond and shared teen secrets on the two-holers at “the end of the line.” We purchased a block of ice for the antique box in the shed and even scrubbed down the “Grouch House” for would-be guests.

  But we wanted so much more.

  We wanted Christmas!

  “It might be a little odd,” one cousin said.

  “Sure would,” echoed the other.

  “Let’s ignore that,” I said.

  Cross-legged on the antique bed in our upstairs hideaway, we plotted how we could pull it off.

  “We’ll handcraft decorations for the tree,” said one cousin.

  “We’ll pick up gifts in the village . . . even a holiday meal,” chimed the other.

  “And we’ll send out invitations,” I said.

  The wide plank flooring quivered under our combined energy.

  On stationery found in the parlor desk, we composed rhymed couplets penned in our best script. Convinced Keats would be proud, we lost no time in posting them.

  We begged our moms to pick up a few items at the grocery store—okay, maybe not a turkey, but how about a holiday brunch with eggs Benedict and a fresh fruit cup? “And don’t forget maple syrup for waffles!”

  We popped corn in a pan and strung garland, yet so much was missing. There were no ornaments to be found anywhere. We poked through brush along a New England stone wall and fell upon a treasure trove of cones, seedpods and nuts. We tied loops around red-berry sprigs and green crabapple stems. Scissors soon fashioned white paper into snowflakes and tinfoil into a star.

  Thoughts of the tree encouraged us—but the mailbox didn’t. Every afternoon, we rode down the mountain to check it. Still no reply to our invitations—even though the event was upon us.

  On the morning of the anticipated day, our folks distracted us with an excursion to the mountains. We arrived home late and tired.

  Dad went in first to light the kerosene lamps. When the windows were aglow, we girls ambled upstairs. We stopped at the sound of bells.

  “What is it?” I craned over the stairwell.

  “Ho, ho, ho,” resounded in the distance.

  “It’s got to be Chesley!” Dad said, lamp in hand, as he peered out the front door into the darkness.

  Chesley and Barbara, I thought. The guests are arriving!

  I jumped down the stairs in time to see a fully regaled Santa leap into the lamplight. A prim Mrs. Claus joined him by the house.

  “You didn’t think it was a dumb idea, after all!” we girls shouted.

  “Oh, we thought it was wonderful,” they said.

  Such gameness of spirit spurred us cousins to action. We chopped down a forest fir, placed it in the sitting room and smothered it with our handmade treasures.

  Before the crackling fire in the hearth, Mrs. Claus rocked while Santa distributed our carefully selected gifts. Chocolate mints, knickknacks and a dainty handkerchief . . . even Roy Tan cigars for Dad.

  The impossible had actually happened: a farmhouse Christmas . . . in August!

  True, this was a most uncommon New Hampshire Christmas. Instead of frost nipping at our toes, perspiration beaded our foreheads. Rather than windows iced shut, fragrant breezes blew past. In place of quietly falling snow, a chorus of crickets performed. Where snowsuits would have hung, swimsuits dried on pegs.

  Yet the love of celebrating, which knew no season, abounded. And therein lay the joy.

  Margaret Lang

  With Gladne
ss and Glue

  While Christmas shopping in a jewelry store, I discovered a clearance table of gilded ornaments. Detailed and delicate in design, each had a personality all its own. I sorted among the hundreds of filigreed masterpieces, picked out a few and took them home.

  Deciding they were much too pretty to disappear among the clutter of a Christmas tree, I used them instead to decorate small eight-inch wreaths. When I stood back to admire my handiwork, a thought crossed my mind: Wouldn’t some of our family and friends like these, too?

  I raced back to the jewelry store to discover that the stack of ornaments had been reduced even further. This time I bought dozens as I thought of the many people who might enjoy one for the holidays.

  Armed with a glue gun and bright ribbons of every color, I eagerly began my creative project. The wreaths multiplied like measles and dotted every flat surface in our house. For days, my family tiptoed around, elbowed their way through and slept among the miniature masterpieces.

  While I tied dainty bows and glued golden ornaments, my mind wandered to Christmases past, and I pondered how special each had been. I thought about others perhaps not so fortunate. Some people in our community didn’t have a family to share the joy of Christmas. Some didn’t bother with holiday decorations. Some never left their homes to celebrate the season.

  I nodded my head in determined satisfaction. They would be at the top of my list to receive a little wreath. My husband joined me in the plan, and we set out together to put it into action.

  We visited the aged. We visited the widowed. We visited the lonely. Each one was thrilled with our cheery stops and immediately hung our small gifts—often the only signs of celebration in their homes.

  After several days, I realized we had made and given almost two hundred wreaths. Decorated with love and delivered with delight, they filled many homes and hearts with the joy of Christmas.

 
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