On this, the 22nd day of Advent, Norman Vincent Peale shares a moving tale of a humble woman of modest means who knew—and shared—the greatest riches to be had.
I have a little story to tell; it's a story of love in action, and that’s what Christmas is all about.
In a midwestern city there is a company whose offices occupy a whole floor in a great skyscraper. In those offices. after each business day ended, worked an elderly, gray-haired woman. She worked into the late hours with brooms and mops.
It was a lonely, thankless job, but inside her glowed a remarkable and special kind of warmth: love for her bleak task; love for the great, impersonal city where she lived; love for her fellow man. And this love manifested itself in a most unusual way: Late at night, after her cleaning chores were done, she would sit in those empty offices and write little notes, full of concern and caring, to the daytime occupants.
An executive of the firm, a friend of mine, once showed me one of those notes. It went like this:
Dear Mr. Sales Manager:
Your wastepaper baskets are very nice. Someone with a lot of imagination must have thought of making them. I like the picture of your family, too. What lovely children you have.
I am going home now. Most people are in bed, I suppose. It has been snowing and it is beautiful outside; the streets are so quiet. It will be lovely walking home tonight.
I just love to sit down and look at my work when it is well done. Even though I have to work so late. I’m glad that Jesus gives me strength to help out and to be happy doing it.
I must be going now. I promise not to write you again soon. It must be very boring.
That sales manager said to me, “How do you think a man feels when he gets a note like that? I can tell you: It does something to you. This woman, who has the love of Jesus Christ in her heart, just goes through an office building radiating it, loving people, loving the world, making it a more beautiful place. She comes in to clean the office, but she also cleans our minds and our souls. We have never seen her, but she has affected all of us.”
Of course she affected them! She was able to do it because she had within her that steady flame of love, not just at Christmastime, but all through the year.
How can we find this spark within ourselves? How can we discover it, nurture it, make it grow? Our Christian faith tells us that there are many ways. By prayer, by church-going, by Bible reading. By practicing honesty and compassion in our daily lives. By being grateful for life and all the wonders it offers.
But most of all—once we have discovered it—by giving it away.
This story first appeared in the December 1977 edition of Guideposts.