Tennessee Christmas Come Early

Leah is not her real name. But I like that name, so let’s call her that. She is a single mother of three boys with a full-time job. She lives in a rural Tennessee neighborhood with several kids on her street.

Family is important to Leah since she didn’t have many family ties growing up. Today she has her kids and her dogs, and that’s about it. To her, family is everything.

A few months ago, a little girl moved into the neighborhood. Leah’s elderly neighbors adopted their young niece. It’s been a hard situation for the girl. Her aunt is sickly, and her uncle, bless him, does his best to be a full-time caregiver, cook, and housekeeper, while also raising a little girl.

Leah didn’t know the child’s backstory, but somehow she knew that this old double-wide trailer was the girl’s last stop. Her heart went out to the child. Each evening at sunset, when Leah would get home from work, she’d pass the girl’s home and see her sitting on the front stoop, counting cars, looking lonely as a cloud.

And that is where our story begins.

It was last week. The weather was getting cooler, signaling the arrival of the holiday season. Leah’s neighbors had all started putting up Christmas decor early even though it wasn’t yet Thanksgiving because, as you have probably noticed, 2020 sucks.

Leah walked to the end of the street and invited the child over for tea and sandwiches. She brought a handwritten invitation and everything. She told the girl she would be delighted if she would join her.

The girl got excited. She ran inside and asked her uncle. In a few moments the girl was accompanying Leah home and it was a real treat. While Leah’s three heathen boys ran around the backyard, playing, breaking bones, and shouting obscenities like boys do, Leah and the little girl sipped Early Grey.

The girl had a lot to say. She told Leah that life had been rough. Her parents gave her away at birth and she’d been passed around between relatives ever since her entrance into this world. And even though her aunt and uncle were super nice people, kid-wise they weren’t particularly exciting.

Her aunt spent most of the day in bed, dealing with her illness. Her uncle did all the housework and was usually too exhausted in the evenings to play games or hang out. The girl told Leah that she was lonely.

She also told Leah that Christmas was probably going to be a flop this year. Her aunt and uncle had already admitted they might not even be able to afford more than a tiny plastic tree. Times have been tight since the pandemic hit.

Leah listened. She nodded. She took it all in.

That evening Leah raided her own garage like a woman obsessed. She found what she was looking for in the corner. In a few minutes she was unloading huge cardboard boxes in her driveway. The cartons were filled with strands of lights, decade-old decorations, and holiday paraphernalia.

She even located an old titanic artificial Christmas tree, which came unassembled in 10,000 pieces and required a degree from MIT University to erect.

The next morning, Leah and her three boys, and two other neighborhood volunteers arrived at the little girl’s home, unannounced, armed with staple guns, ladders, and boxes of ornaments.

Leah rapped on the trailer door.

The old man answered.

Leah asked if he had any objections to letting them decorate the home for Christmas. The man was shamefaced when he saw everyone standing in his yard. He dropped his head and said he was the world’s biggest failure. He explained to Leah that he felt badly about not having money for a big to-do for his niece this year.

And he almost started crying when he told Leah that he was trying his best to raise the girl, give her a good home, and make sure she was loved, but sometimes he felt like he was too elderly for the job.

Leah cut straight to the heart of the matter. She placed an assuring hand on his shoulder and with all her sincerity she said, “We’re gonna need lots of extension cords.”

Well, if there is one thing all old guys have, it’s extension cords. Although kidney stones are a close second. The old man hustled into his workshed and returned with enough electrical cable to stretch across Greenland.

Together they all worked on the small home for nearly four hours until the sun was low. Soon, the trailer was done up in twinkling lights, plastic yard art, ribbons, garland wrapped around the porch railing, and reindeer stickers on the windows.

Other neighbors had seen what was happening and began contributing leftover Christmas lights from their own storage rooms, too. Before the day was done the small home was covered in enough white lights and decorations to be visible from the International Space Station.

After that, everyone went inside the trailer and got busy decorating the interior. They addressed every side table, bookshelf, countertop, TV tray, and available house cat. Then Leah ordered pizza delivery for supper, and she set up the complicated artificial tree in the corner.

It was, positively, one of the best days ever. For everyone.

When it was finished, they all went outside to the curb to admire the lights, glowing in the night. The little girl, who still had no idea why a perfect stranger would do something like this for her, hugged Leah and said, “I’m so glad we’re friends.”

Leah lifted the girl into her arms. “Oh, sweetie, we’re not friends anymore. We’re family.”

“Really?” The girl said with a watery smile.

Yes. Really.

35 comments

  1. Nell Thomas - November 21, 2020 8:39 am

    God bless all the Leah’s who stop and notice a young child in need and take time to show love and help make their life better. Great story to kick off the holiday season. 2020 needs all the help it can get. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and let us all hope and pray for a better New Year- to you and all your family. It is 2:30 AM. After reading your story- I have a better feeling than I woke up with. Thank You. Got time for another nap beforeJessie,my pup’s, next trip outside.

    Reply
  2. oldlibrariansshelf - November 21, 2020 10:42 am

    Dealing with COVID has been rough, but children whose families are broken is a much more widespread plague. Stories of redemption for these children are always heartwarming. Thanks for sharing this one, Sean.

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  3. Laura - November 21, 2020 11:16 am

    Your stories make my eyes leak every day, I love them so very much. Thank you for writing.

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  4. Ann - November 21, 2020 12:05 pm

    WOW😢🥰….what a gift..

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  5. Greg Radcliff - November 21, 2020 12:28 pm

    Leah lives at 1 Frankl Way in terms of his category of decent people. There are many out there who are much like the “little girl” in the story. I pray that God will place them in my path this holiday season and that I can be like Leah.

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  6. Virginia Russell - November 21, 2020 12:54 pm

    Nice

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  7. Jerry catherine Deloney - November 21, 2020 12:55 pm

    Bless leigh. True Christmas spirit and I suspect she has it all year long…which certainly is tough this year!

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  8. Bonnie Stewart - November 21, 2020 1:15 pm

    Heartwarming to be sure!

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  9. Norbert Sprunger - November 21, 2020 1:16 pm

    We need many more stories like this. Good people everywhere are doing good things by the millions, but all we hear are the evil things……….evil sells, good does not, they think. Keep’em coming….!!!!!
    Norbert Sprunger

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  10. Mary Newman - November 21, 2020 1:46 pm

    Beautiful story. The only thing left to make it complete is the power bill. God bless them, every one.

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  11. E. Ann Padgett - November 21, 2020 1:50 pm

    Thank you, Sean! It seems I have a new routine since I subscribed to your column. As soon as the needs of dogs, D and me allow it each morning after I arise, I read your daily column via my email. Your beautiful tidbit story each day tells me that you’re okay, we’re okay, and most all those you introduce to us in your stories are doing or did at least okay that day too. And by extension of your story’s gentle message, we will all do just fine as long as we can keep our hearts, minds and talents open to helping others more in need at the time when, where and how we can and will legally and safely do so too. We will not do such things due to the demands or wiles of others, but because of our own free will and the sweet suggestions coming from our own soul, our own guardian angel, or whatever other version our inner spirituality provides for each of us to become our best selves — at least for today. By doing so faithfully and fairly, we may begin to recognize your message that in certain significant ways we are all family.

    Indeed, you are a gifted person, Sean. Thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us others daily. Especially this year and today, your stories are helping many. And, please tell your wife and Bud “Hi” for me. ☺️

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  12. Cheryl W. - November 21, 2020 1:52 pm

    I suspect Leah might be part of the same gang as Bud. 😉

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  13. Dee Thompson - November 21, 2020 1:58 pm

    Beautiful story! I know a lot of people already putting up their trees because Christmas spirit is a lot better than pandemic blues. I lost my mom to covid last summer, but I will have Christmas this year, even if it’s the last one in this house. Mom loved Christmas.

    Reply
  14. Beryl - November 21, 2020 2:02 pm

    Kindness costs nothing and it means everything. I can’t remember who said this, “People won’t remember what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.” Or something like that…

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  15. Eddy - November 21, 2020 2:32 pm

    Beautiful! That’s Christmas Spirit. Thank you.

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  16. allisvant - November 21, 2020 2:35 pm

    Well, I’m grateful that my house still looks like Thanksgiving – (except for the large room that my daughter & her hubby are staying in – it looks Macy’s on Dec. 24th), but stories like this one will make me appreciate the Christmas Season even more….and I’m Thankful for that!

    Reply
  17. allisvant - November 21, 2020 2:45 pm

    Well, gratefully my house still looks like Thanksgiving (except for the large room where my daughter & her hubby are staying – it looks like a Macy’s showroom), but stories like this will make me all the more appreciative for the Christmas Season ………and I’m Thankful that!

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  18. Jan - November 21, 2020 3:01 pm

    Tears are flowing. Such a beautiful story. Neighbors like Leah are truly a gift from God!

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  19. Kate - November 21, 2020 4:10 pm

    If one is tired of hearing about all the bad in the world, turn off the TV. I have not watched the news or watched TV, (except for SEC football of course) for about 4 years. I decided there was much more good in the world, and the people I knew were kind and giving. I had watched them for years doing good…. for many they never even knew. So I decided I would concentrate on the good. I do not think God ever intended for us to absorb all the misery and evil in the world, which we do if we watch the nightly news. There is enough misery and yuck in our own towns, but there is so much more. And then I discovered Sean – through a facebook post – and I rarely go on facebook, but I was lucky that day. Now I am encouraged everyday that there is more good than evil, and people in all walks of life help others, regardless of race, etc. I think they always have, they just never make the news. Good rarely does, so thank you Sean for brining us the good. God Bless

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  20. Tim House - November 21, 2020 4:59 pm

    Just the kind of story we need, in a year that otherwise sucked…

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  21. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - November 21, 2020 6:19 pm

    Kleenex please.

    Reply
  22. Linda Moon - November 21, 2020 6:55 pm

    Clouds, as I’ve looked at them, are not lonely for me. But, you’re right, Sean, 2020 has been suckily lonely. We ARE family….all of us who read and understand stories from you about neighbors like Leah. She loves her neighbors as she loves herself!

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  23. MAM - November 21, 2020 7:26 pm

    Leaky eyes, as usual, but thanks for another very heart-warming story. May Leah continue to bless this little girl! And you, Sean, to continue to bless us with these stories!

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  24. Del Daniels - November 21, 2020 7:54 pm

    Very inspiring, Sean, thank you 💕

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  25. elizabethroosje - November 21, 2020 8:14 pm

    oh!!! that is so wonderful!!! one of those, I’m not crying, your crying moments!! God bless them all!

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  26. Susie Murphy - November 21, 2020 9:26 pm

    My smile is watery.

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  27. Pat McNekll - November 21, 2020 10:24 pm

    Thank you for ALL of your stories, but, today, especially this one. I look forward to your blog every morning. Again, thank you!! 💕

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  28. Denise Walker - November 22, 2020 1:04 am

    another tear jerker (in a good way) There aren’t too many Leahs left in this world, but I’m glad to know of at least one. Thanks for sharing, Sean. Your words are always so touching.

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  29. Paula Krebbs - November 22, 2020 1:24 am

    Thank you for that. It was exactly what I needed today.

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  30. Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder - November 22, 2020 3:05 am

    Dearest Sean,
    That was a very touching story but so wel told and you unwrapped the pure gift of now being family so naturally at the end. That is the SOUTH and we’ve lived it here as well and it makes you behave likewise.
    My WordPress blog is not the active one… still having my blogpost blog.
    You live on my side line there… because we’re family in spirit!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    Reply
  31. Suzanne Cahill - November 22, 2020 2:14 pm

    It’s too early in the morning to be crying, and I don’t care. What a beautiful story. Thank you, Sean

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  32. Barbara Weldon - November 22, 2020 5:01 pm

    Beautiful!

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  33. CHARALEEN SWISHER WRIGHT - November 22, 2020 7:03 pm

    Dear Sean…PLEASE start posting your columns on gab.com. I left facebook due to my personal beliefs regarding free speech.

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  34. Angela V Young - November 22, 2020 10:31 pm

    Damn you, Sean; you made me cry, again!

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  35. Maureen Theriault - November 29, 2020 5:45 pm

    I second that. My heart breaks for the little girl, but it is full of admiration for the Leahs of the world. Thank you, Sean for a reminder that we can all be Leahs.

    Reply

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