Meet You at the Mailbox …a Christmas Story
He was a man of few words so the phone conversation was of necessity brief and to the point. Yes, we were distributing Christmas presents to families in the drought. Yes we delivered, but only to the mailbox on the main road. The ages of the children I can't recall, other than they were boy and girl and they were young. We were heading off down his road on the Sunday morning before Christmas. "Meet you at the mailbox about 7 am" I said. "OK mate" he said, and that was that.
Sunday morning Janelle and I packed 2 garbage bags full of toys for his two children and headed off, an unlikely Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, doing delivery in the drought ravaged outback. We had taken orders for over 80 isolated families that Christmas in our church's "Christmas in the Bush" program, and things were drawing to a close. Some of the families lived 800 kilometers from the nearest K-mart or Woolworths, and the parents had no chance of making the journey to shop for Christmas. Distance wouldn't allow it, nor would money or circumstances.
I saw him at the mailbox, leaning on his ute - a craggy lean 70-something waiting patiently for our arrival. With nary a word I gave him the bags, he thanked us then told us his story. It was one of those "Grannie to the rescue" stories. He was the children's grandfather, and he would be having the children with him for Christmas. Six weeks ago their mother was badly scalded in an accident and she had flown to Brisbane with her husband in the Air Ambulance. Grandad was left to look after the kids, and the stock. Then with a tear in his eye he confided,
"Wouldn't have thought I'd still be on the road at 75 years old, but there's no feed left on the property, so we've been on the road for 3 weeks. The 2 kids are up ahead with the cattle, we'll be having Christmas on the road this year - no other way right now. Don't have a hope in hell of getting the kids any toys this year, so I can't thank you enough.."
He was tearful, and reaching into the front seat of his ute, took out a dozen eggs wrapped in newspaper (as was once the custom). I sensed his pride demanded something be given in exchange for the toys. Handing them over he mumbled
"Here, if you want some eggs take these, they're all I've got to give you."
After a few more words, Janelle gave him a hug, "be thinking of you", and we were off down the road. Grandad and the ute drove off down a bush track to nowhere. Through the rear vision mirror, I watched the mailbox disappear, thinking thoughts of Christmas, and how it sneaks up on you when you least expect it sometimes. How wonderful that a story of a child's birth in a lonely cattle shed 2000 years ago, could make a difference in a struggling grandad's life out here in outback Australia. Christmas does this to you every time, if you let it. The toys - well, they are only the means whereby we inadequately express 'glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill'. The important thing was 'Love came down at Christmas' by the mailbox, and broke the drought if only for a moment, for 2 kids and their 75 year old saintly grandad.
Reverend Ian Lord
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