John knew his young daughter, Gracie, loved Christmas, so when he was outside shovelling it didn’t really faze him that she was over petting the old Christmas tree that was near the curb waiting to be taken away. He also didn’t really think much about it when she moved on and started petting the neighbors’ Christmas tree at the curb. When he noticed she was at the other neighbors’ tree at the curb pouring water on it and crying he decided he should talk to her. He assumed she was taking Christmas being over really hard, but he wanted to show he cared, so he knelt beside her and gently asked, “Are you okay?”
“No!” exclaimed Gracie as she started to cry harder. She reached down and started hugging the tree. Unfortunately, she got pricked and started crying even harder because of the pain.
John wasn’t overly affected by her saying no because he had a young family and the word no had been a popular choice with his kids for some time now. Not taking that personally was easy. What was harder was not laughing after she tried hugging the tree and got hurt – the thing you’d expect to happen hugging a prickly object. Her innocence always made him smile.
After being hurt by the tree, Gracie flung herself into her dad’s chest and continued to cry. He just held her and appreciated the moment as he loved having a reason to hug his daughter.
After a few minutes, Gracie’s crying started to settle down and he asked her, “Are you having a hard time saying good-bye to Christmas?”
Again, she cried, “No!” but this time it was for the hurt of her dad not understanding her.
Now he was confused. “So why are you crying and petting the Christmas trees?”
Gracie took a moment to calm her emotions enough to speak, and then she blurted. “Because no one loves them!” and then she started to sob again.
“Ooohh,” said her dad as her reaction seemed to make more sense.
“We used Mrs. Treetums and now we’re throwing her away,” complained Gracie.
“Mrs. Treetums? I thought this was Mrs. Treenie,” smiled her dad to himself.
“Don’t be silly, Daddy!” scolded Gracie with the seriousness of a disgruntled police officer.
“My mistake,” her dad replied still smiling to himself. “I think the problem here is there’s been a misunderstanding. You see, we’re not throwing Mrs. Treetums away. We’re letting her go visit her loved ones and live a new adventure. Being a Christmas tree is just the first step. She still has some great things to do.”
“Really?” asked Gracie with hope returning to her eyes.
“Absolutely,” her dad affirmed with a voice that almost sounded sincere, but limited by the fact he’s a guy, so it was inherently hard for him not to sound a little sarcastic when trying to sound sincere. “Can I show you something?” When Gracie nodded, he went in the house, grabbed the car keys, and told his wife he and Gracie would be back shortly. He had to show Gracie something, and he told his wife because he was a well trained husband who practiced good communication (like the author).
With Gracie strapped properly in her car seat (he was also responsible… like the author), John drove a short distance to a conservation area where there was already a large number of former Christmas trees dropped off. After parking the car, he helped Gracie out of her restraints and he walked with her around the parking lot. “See all the trees? They’re getting ready for the big party.”
“They are?” questioned Gracie.
“Yeah,” reassured her dad. “Humans love Christmas, but Christmas trees look forward to the big party they have after. It’s like how school is fun, but there’s something magical about going home for the holidays. That’s what it’s like for the trees. They love Christmas, but they really love coming here to see all their family and friends. This is where all the trees in the area get dropped off for their own celebration. It’s like their Christmas since it’s their grand celebration before they move onto their next job. This party is typically the happiest time for a tree even more than Christmas.”
“Really?” Gracie asked with great interest.
“Trees are like people: They can always be useful,” reassured her dad. “Even your little sister who is a baby is useful.”
“She is?” asked Gracie even more surprised than before.
“She has the same job as you: Being super cute and making your mommy and I happy,” shared her dad, “That’s a really important job. We like being happy.”
“I’m really good at that job,” said Gracie with all the confidence of an Apple CEO.
“You definitely are,” he reassured her. “After the big party, the trees will all be given a different job.”
“Like what?” asked Gracie.
“Well, some trees will be sent to goat farms because the goats love the old trees,” said her dad.
“I like goats,” shared Gracie.
“And so do the trees, which means those ones will be very happy,” confirmed her dad who was thinking he’d hold off on telling her the goats eat the trees because that may not be such a happy thought. “Other trees will go swimming and live with the fish at the bottom of lakes to protect the fish and give them a place to feed and socialize.”
“I don’t like fish,” grimaced Gracie.
“Yes, I know,” smiled her dad, “but some trees love fish very much and want to help them by being their shelter. Other trees get to go to zoos and spend time with animals like the giraffes and zebras.”
“I like the zoo,” Gracie announced.
“Yeah, and so do all of the trees that go there,” affirmed her dad. “Other trees like to spend time at the beach where they help prevent erosion problems over the winter.”
“I wouldn’t want to go to the beach in the winter. That’s silly,” Gracie said shaking her head.
“There are a few other jobs, but the one I like the most is they get to be used in gardens, so they get to be beautiful all over again. They get a second chance to help people be happy. Isn’t that wonderful?” asked her dad. “That’s definitely what I would choose if I was a tree.”
Gracie smiled at her dad, “No garden… giraffes; yes, giraffes,” she corrected.
Her dad couldn’t help but laugh out loud this time as he hugged his daughter.
After getting home from the conservation area, Gracie immediately ran back to the Christmas tree in the driveway and hugged it (she was careful not to let her face be pricked this time). John was confused and started to get a little concerned. He thought she was happy now, so it didn’t make sense that she would run to the tree to hug it now.
This time when John got to his daughter and saw her face while hugging the tree, there was a giant smile. He instantly felt relieved and instinctively took out his phone to take a picture.
While hugging the tree, Gracie cheerfully said, “You’re going to have so much fun. I saw some of your family and friends. They’re waiting for you, so they can get the great tree party started. You were a wonderful tree. You deserve to have all the fun in the world… and you can tell all of your friends how you got the best hug.” As she let go of the tree, Gracie whispered, “And go with the giraffes. Fish are gross… or you can do the garden. That’s what daddy loves.”
After Gracie said her good-byes to the other two trees, John took Gracie in for hot chocolate as she told her mommy what she had learned. That Christmas, the best gift came after all the decorations were put away as both Gracie and her dad made one of their favourite Christmas memories. Sometimes the best moments come at the most unexpected times when we take the time to care.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)