Filling Up on Faith at Christmas

A woman encounters an angelic stranger who helps her make it home for Christmas dinner.

Posted in , Dec 5, 2011

An earth angel with spiky orange hair who comes through on Christmas.

Beep. Beep. Beep. The sound of heart monitors in the emergency room, a far cry from the carols I thought I’d be listening to on Christmas Day.

That morning, on the ranch where I work, I found my boss, Bruce, slumped over in the front seat of his pickup truck, suffering from kidney stones.

I’d driven 40 miles to the closest ER. I called Bruce’s wife and told her he would be discharged soon.

“We’ll have the turkey waiting,” she said.

Bruce, his wife and two kids were like family to me. I lived next door, and we always shared a Christmas dinner together.

We’d exchanged a few gifts that morning before I’d hopped into the pickup with Bruce to feed the bulls.

He’d seemed fine at first, when we’d gone over our usual checklist. Hay bales, check. Hay hooks, check. Fuel...

Oh, no. I remembered Bruce checking the gauge before we’d headed out.

“Enough fuel to get us through the feeding,” he’d said. “That’s about it.”

I headed to the parking lot and started up the truck. Sure enough, the needle registered empty. We were lucky we’d even made it to the ER!

I felt my pockets. No wallet, no money. I knew Bruce didn’t have his either. We never did when we were out working.

I tried to get his wife on the phone again. No answer. Everyone was out feeding the cows.

When Bruce was discharged we discussed the situation. How could we get home for Christmas dinner? The nurse who had been attending to Bruce came running down the hall.

“I heard you were having trouble getting home,” she said. She pressed a $25 Shell gas card in my hand.

“Thank you!” I said. Maybe miracles did happen on Christmas Day.

We made it to the Shell station. It was dark. In Oregon, attendants pump our gas, and they had the day off.

“There’s another one down the road,” Bruce said. No luck there either. Every station was closed.

Now what? I drove up the main street. I saw a sign for a gas station: “Open until 4 p.m. on Christmas Day.”

I glanced at the clock. 4:15. Cars were lined up, but the employees were turning them away.

I stopped and got out. I knocked on the door of the attendant’s booth. Lord, I need an angel.

The lone occupant turned to face me. Whoa.

It was a young man, with bright, orange spiked hair and a metal stud through his lower lip. His ears were weighed down and stretched out by all the giant bolts and hoops.

“Can I help?” He eyed me in my hay chaps and Muck boots like I was the oddest person he had ever seen in his entire life.

“We’ve spent all morning in the emergency room,” I said. “We don’t have enough gas to make it home or any money. I know you’re not Shell, but could you use this card?”

“Those cards don’t work here,” he said. “But I’ll pump twenty-five dollars worth. You can come back and pay.”

“Keep the card as collateral.”

“No need,” he said.

I never wished anyone a merrier Christmas in my life!

Our holiday feast was late that day, but if the turkey was overdone, I didn’t notice it. We were home.

The next day I drove back to town to return the card to the nurse and pay our bill at the station.

“What’s this for?” the attendant on duty asked.

I told him about the young man’s generosity. “He had earrings and orange spiky hair…”

“No one here like that,” he said.

I’ve driven past that gas station many times since, and I still haven’t seen that young man. Maybe he moved on to another job. Maybe he dyed his hair and I just don’t recognize him.

The only thing I’m sure about is that on that Christmas, he was the angel that got us home.

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