One month today is Christmas. While many would say it’s far to soon for Christmas stories, I wanted to share this one with all of you. I have seen several variations of this tale, and my hand has added a little to this version as well, but I can find no definitive source to credit an author. So like the Christmas Scout, he or she remains unnamed but I am thankful for the story and it’s meaning!
The Christmas Scout
This is the legend of the Christmas Scout. It was told to me first by a small boy, whose faith in the story was absolute. He even showed me a toy airplane and said emphatically that it came from the Christmas Scout himself.
A young man was returning home from his family’s traditional Christmas Eve reunion with relatives for the purpose of exchanging gifts and good wishes. He now had a sled full of presents and although it was cold, he was warm because he was wearing the new ski jacket for which he had hoped. It was his favorite gift.
But in spite of everything he was not happy. This was because it was to be his first Christmas without his brother who had during the year been killed by a reckless driver. His brother had been a good Scout and a fine example to him. The holidays were a painful reminder of how much he truly missed him.
Near the end of the evening the young man had said his thanks and good-byes to his relatives, then explained to his parents that he was leaving a little early to stop and see a friend on the way. Afterwards he would meet them at home.
Now as he walked through the cold night air he hoped to find the patrol leader of his Boy Scout Troop. Perhaps he might have some advice to offer the young Scout. Though rich in wisdom, the patrol leader lived in the “Flats” a section of town where most of the poor lived. Arriving at the patrol leader’s house he was disappointed to find his friend was not at home, so disheartened he turned to leave.
As his hiked down the street toward home, he caught glimpses of trees and decorations in many of the small houses. Then, through one front window, he glimpsed a shabby room with limp stockings hanging over an empty fireplace. A woman was seated nearby . . . weeping. The stockings reminded him of the way he and his brother had always hung theirs side by side and how the next morning, they would be bursting with presents. A sudden thought struck him: he had not done his ‘good deed’ for the day.
He knocked at the door.
“Yes?” the sad voice of the woman inquired.
“May I come in? I am a Scout.”
“You are very welcome,” she said, seeing his sled full of gifts and assuming he was making a collection “but I have no food or gifts for you. I have nothing for my own children.’
“That is why I am here,” he replied. “Please choose whatever presents you would like for your children from the sled.”
“Why God bless you!” she answered gratefully. “My little boys will be very happy.”
She took some candies and a game, the toy airplane, and a puzzle. When she took the new official Scout flashlight the young man almost cried out, but he did not. Soon he saw that the stockings were full and turned to leave.
“Won’t you tell me your name?” she asked.
“Just call me the Christmas Scout,” he replied.
The visit left the Scout touched with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart. He now understood that his sorrow was not the only sorrow in the world. Before he left the Flats that night he visited many more homes and gave away the rest of his gifts. The last one being his new ski jacket which had gone to a shivering boy who had none.
Now the Scout trudged homeward, cold and uneasy. How could he explain to his parents that he had given his gifts away?
‘Where are your presents, son?’ asked his father as he entered the house.
The boy answered, ‘I gave them away.’
‘The airplane from Aunt Susan? Your jacket from Grandma? Your flashlight? We thought you were happy with your gifts.’
‘I was very happy,’ he answered quietly.
‘But how could you be so impulsive?’ his mother asked. ‘How will we explain to the relatives who spent so much time and gave so much love shopping for you?’
The young Scout had no answer.
His father was firm. ‘You made your choice. We cannot afford any more presents.’
With his brother gone, and his family disappointed in him, he suddenly felt dreadfully alone. He had not expected a reward for his generosity; for he knew that a good deed always should be its own reward. It would be tarnished otherwise. He did not want his gifts back; however he wondered if he would ever again truly recapture joy in his life. He thought he had done so this evening, but it had been a fleeting thing. Disheartened and thinking of his brother he sobbed himself to sleep.
The next morning, he came downstairs to find his parents listening to Christmas music on the radio. Then the announcer spoke: ‘Merry Christmas, everybody! The nicest Christmas story we have this morning comes from the Flats. A handicapped boy down there has a new sled this morning, another youngster has a fine ski jacket, and several more families report that their children were made happy last night by gifts from a teenage boy who simply called himself the Christmas Scout. No one could identify him, but the children of the Flats claim that the Christmas Scout was a personal representative of old Santa Claus himself.’
The Scout felt his father’s arms go around his shoulders, and he saw his mother smiling through her tears. ‘Why didn’t you tell us? We didn’t understand. We are so proud of you, son.’
The carols came over the air again filling the room with music: ‘. . . Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on Earth.’
Until next time…
Be safe, be prepared, and keep Scouting!