The Red Christmas Vest

A dear friend recently shared a story with me that brought a tear to my eye. She gave me permission to share this wonderful example of how God pulled off a miracle.

When she was younger she ran a small organization called the Christmas Bureau. When she took over, it was in terrible debt and she had no clear idea of what to do. However, she was young and full of energy and her mentor was an elderly Presbyterian minister who was on fire with the love of God and he made her believe that all things were possible.

Armed with that belief, she and other volunteers went to the personal care homes and asked every inhabitant what they wanted for Christmas and vowed to get it for them. Though they had no idea how to do it, they still promised. The year was in the 1980’s and the inhabitants of those homes were mostly folks from state mental hospitals who had been released by Congress but money never followed to put them in decent places. Thus, the personal care homes sprang up and at the time there were no regulations governing them. The homes were grim places…the inhabitants mainly elderly, simple, and very dear.

One particular old man, called Willard, looked like a watercolor picture of Santa, complete with white hair, beard, and fat belly. Willard was so indoctrinated into the life of the state hospital that he couldn’t put his own toothpaste on his toothbrush. He stood quietly and held it out while someone put the paste on because he didn’t know how. The caseworkers knew he had been incarcerated at a very early age, but all paperwork had been destroyed in a fire. At the time, he was believed to be around 80 years of age, although no one knew for sure.

When the inhabitants were asked what gifts they wanted, most asked for simple things: socks, talcum powder, cheap perfume, or fruit. But Willard asked for a red vest because he remembered wearing a red vest and flying a kite with his father.

My friend’s heart sank when he asked for the vest because she had no idea where that kind of money would come from. A vest would cost twenty or thirty dollars and the budget allowed for spending two or three dollars on each resident. She was sick with worry about it.

The Christmas Bureau worked hard to raise money by speaking at churches and clubs asking for donations. When she asked the treasurer how they were doing, the response was “Okay, but watch those pennies!”

Finally shopping day came and she realized she couldn’t do it. Even though they’d worked hard to raise money, the treasurer said they were limited to spending $15.00 max for Willard and receipts would be checked. My friend had thought to buy the vest herself, but she had very limited personal funds and was admonished not to do that.

She met her sister, who lived in a larger town, and asked for her assistance in picking up the Christmas gifts. Her sister took her to the local K-Mart. My friend hand never been in the store before because there were none near where she lived. The first thing she looked at was the vests. Price $35.00. Her heart sank. There was no way.

Heavy hearted, she loaded her cart with all the other things on the list and as she approached the checkout…all of a sudden bells and whistles went off and she didn’t know what was happening. Then a voice came over the speaker saying that for the next ten minutes men’s vests were 60% off!

She ran to the men’s section, grabbed a red vest and brought it to the counter. $15.00!!

When Willard unwrapped his vest that Christmas Eve he said, “That’s my kite flying vest! That’s what I’ll wear when I fly a kite with my Dad again.”

I hope they buried Willard in the red vest. I can just picture him running around in heaven in that red vest and flying a kite with his dad.

God provided a miracle when least expected. I hope your heart was warmed by this story, just as mine was.

I’ll be sharing more about what happened to the Christmas Bureau on my blog tomorrow. Mark your calendar to come back and read the rest of the story!


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