Grandfather & The Three Mr. Smith's
The end of the year would be here soon. The weather outside was cold, rainy and truly anything but pleasant. But indoors there was a trusty old woodstove that kept things warm. In the midst of it all, young grandchildren heard a new story that challenged their thinking about people and the things they do.
Detailed scenes with good character involvement. A wonderful story to enjoy with everyone, and especially with those looking for original or unusual stories that touch upon the real reason for celebrating Christmas. Recommended for all ages and for sharing!
As the bold and chilly wind of early December blew a misty rain through the woods and around the cabin, the children grew restless. They couldn't go out to run and play in the yard. It was just a really nasty day.
Tomorrow the weather was supposed to be nicer and then the yard would be full of their noise and adventures. But even though today was miserable, Grandfather knew that children like to have some kind of fun.
While the children clamored for something to do, Grandfather sat down and began to tell a story like one his uncle had told him a long time ago.
"I remember hearing about a man named Mr. Smith, who lived on the edge of town. He was mean and short-tempered. No one seemed to like him."
As he pretended to rock in his chair, the children realized a story was coming and gathered near to listen. As Grandfather continued to talk, the girls climbed onto his lap.
"There was another man, also named Mr. Smith, who lived alone. He stayed in a little house by the river. He never let anyone fish in the river near his house."
Then Grandfather sat quietly and didn't say any more. The children watched his face, wondering when the corners of his mouth would move again.
"Is that all?" they asked. "Is that the end of the story?"
Grandfather grinned a small grin. "Well," he said, "Perhaps not. What do you think of Mr. Smith?" he asked softly.
"Which one?" asked little sister.
"They both sound, well, like people that just aren't nice," said big sister.
"That's true," said Grandfather. "They don't sound like pleasant folks, I suppose."
"Then I think we should stay away from people named 'Mr. Smith'," said the girls, almost in unison.
The old woodstove was beginning to cool down. The room felt just a little drafty, but the girls didn't seem to notice. Grandfather hugged them a little closer in his old chair.
"I knew about a man who often helped his neighbors," said Grandfather, "but he never asked for anything in return. He was truly thankful for what he had in this world, and he liked to share. He would give away some of the best vegetables from his garden to others. Sometimes, he would climb up on a neighbor's roof and help fix the shingles. I remember one time that he gave away so much of his seasoned firewood to people he didn't really know, that he had to cut green firewood to keep his house warm."
"He sounds like a very nice man," said little sister, nodding ‘yes.’
"Why did he give away his good firewood? Didn't he know he would need it?" asked brother, who was the middle sibling. He sat down on a stool near Grandfather's right foot.
Grandfather replied, "It was because the people needed help. They were a new family with a baby to feed but they couldn't afford to buy much. Winter was awfully cold that year."
Grandfather said the kind man's own children were grown up and lived far away and even though he was poor himself, he was comfortable with having just a few essential things.
"But why was he so nice? Did someone pay him to be nice?" asked big sister in surprise and then wondered aloud, "What was his name?"
Grandfather carefully looked at each of them in turn, awaiting their reaction as he said, "Nope, no one paid him. He never expected anything from anyone in this world."
He paused a moment as the children considered what they had heard and then asked in a quieter tone, "Would you believe that his name was Mr. Smith, too?"
"What?" the three all exclaimed, with big sister insisting, "People named 'Mr. Smith' aren't very nice. They are mean and people don't like them at all."
"Is that so? But the last Mr. Smith was different and he was nice to folks," Grandfather said and asked her directly, "So is it true that all people named 'Mr. Smith' are really the same?"
It was easy to see that the children were considering this idea as seriously as their thoughts could manage. Big sister glanced once out of the window and suddenly shivered as she thought of the cold air that its thin clear panes kept out. She quickly curled her hands up under her arms and looked back at Grandfather.
Brother fidgeted on the stool for a moment and spoke next: "I think I understand it a little bit. Maybe. It's kind of like little sister is my twin, so we're the same. But she's a girl, and I'm older," he said with a little bit of hesitation.
He continued, "So all twins aren't girls, and all of them aren't really the same age. Some people think my sisters might be the twins, because they are called 'big sister' and 'little sister' but I was the first twin born, so I'm in the middle. And, we all have the same last name."
He was obviously hopeful his thoughts made sense and that Grandfather would approve. But before the old man could say "That's right," big sister slowly spoke up.
"I think I understand something too," she said, with a little bit of embarrassment. "Does it mean that people can be different at the same time they are alike, just like we are?” Her Grandfather smiled.
As she talked she had uncurled her hands and waved them through the air as if the motion would help make her idea clearer.
Beginning to understand but not yet sure, little sister rocked back and forth slightly and whispered in Grandfather's ear, "Is that true?"
"Yes, it is, and what brother said is right as well," said Grandfather as he briefly wondered whether the fire might have died down too low to start back up easily.
"But I should tell you that the second Mr. Smith sometimes told people where they could find the best places to fish along the river," he said to their surprise. "And the third Mr. Smith, well, he sometimes took ripe apples that had fallen to the ground in someone's orchard at night when no one would see him."
The children were surprised to hear of the second Mr. Smith's occasional courtesy and even more surprised to hear the last thing Grandfather revealed.
Then brother burst out, saying, "But they were old apples that would have rotted if they stayed on the ground, so it was okay for him to take them, wasn't it?"
Again, little sister whispered in Grandfather's ear: "That's right, isn't it?" She wanted to believe more than a little bit that brother was probably correct.
"Well, the point is this: people that may seem mean can be nice sometimes, and people that seem nice can sometimes do things that aren't nice or even honest. The last Mr. Smith should have asked the orchard owner for the fallen apples and not been sneaky in taking them."
As Grandfather waited patiently to see if his conclusion was understood, gusts of blustery wind were still teasing and tossing wet leaves all around the yard. Some of them flew in reddish-gold delight while others tumbled miserably around as if seeking places to rest behind every corner.
Inside the cabin, the woodstove had all but quit adding any comfort to the warmth of the room.
It was little sister who then surprised them all with her next comment: "So people aren't always what they seem to be," she said with youthful simplicity. "It that true for everyone?"
"A gold star for you!" exclaimed Grandfather, happily. "Yes, that's pretty well true for everyone who ever was, or ever will be," he said.
"That's a good story," said big sister. "Is there any more of it?"
"Yes," said Grandfather, "but can you tell me which Mr. Smith you would want to be like if you had to choose?"
"Was there anything nice about the first Mr. Smith?" asked brother. "If not, I think it would be good to be like the last Mr. Smith."
Big sister jumped at the opportunity to remind her little brother of the sneaky apple taking: "I wouldn't want to be like him," she announced firmly, but didn’t like the others either so she didn't want to choose any of them.
"Which one would you choose, Grandfather?" she asked, and tried to draw her arms up just a little bit more as she began to shiver.
Grandfather saw that it was time to rekindle the fire. Gently he lifted the girls, got out of the chair and placed them down again. Little sister quickly snuggled into the warmest part of the seat and the big, soft back cushion.
Grandfather moved to the woodbin and picked out a few of the smaller pieces and a handful of sticks. He opened the woodstove door and stirred the coals, then placed the sticks inside. They smoked for a few moments and made a popping noise, then it seemed as though the fire instantly burst back into life.
Brother smiled to himself at his Grandfather's ability with the old stove and the comfortable heat it produced. He wanted to be like his Grandfather and not like anyone else.
Grandfather answered brother's question by saying, "Not everyone is all bad, nor all good." To big sister he replied not quite as clearly, "There is only one person I can ever think of who was always good all of the time."
"Was his name Mr. Smith too?" she asked, and wondered for a moment how many Mr. Smith's her grandfather had known in his long life. She sometimes thought he knew almost everyone.
"No, it wasn't," he told her. "But I've told you the story about him many times before, about all of the good things he did that people liked and how there were people who didn't like him simply because he did so many good things."
The children's minds raced as they tried to figure out who this person who did lots of good things could be. They tried to recall everyone that Grandfather had ever told them about or that they had ever met.
They had lots of guesses but kept missing the mark, so brother asked for a hint or clue to help them.
Little sister was beginning to really enjoy this new aspect of their storytime, and slid to the left on the warm seat cushion so her big sister could have more room and they could sit closer together.
The two of them nestled into the cozy chair and kept trying to guess who the mysterious person could be. Grandfather kept his silence as they struggled to guess the name of the person in his riddle.
After several minutes, they felt they had tried all of their guesses. Still in her excitement, little sister asked to hear a new story since they couldn't guess the answer.
"Can you tell us a Christmas story?" asked her twin. The year would be gone in a few weeks and Christmas was getting very close. He was also ready for this story to end, and anyway he already knew whom he wanted to be like. His eyes gleamed in admiration of his grandfather.
"A Christmas story? Hmmm." Grandfather paused for a moment and then thoughtfully said, "That could be a good clue for you all."
The next few minutes crawled slowly by, when little sister happened to look at the small table by the chair and suddenly jumped.
"I know!" she almost shouted while nearly bouncing her sister out of the chair. "The only person who was always good was Jesus!"
"Another gold star for you, my dear!" laughed Grandfather. "How did you guess?"
"Because He was the only person who never did anything wrong. He helped everyone He could and never asked for anything for Himself!" The child was so ecstatic in her enthusiasm at guessing the correct answer that her siblings burst into similar comments.
Grandfather added several bigger pieces of wood to the growing fire in the stove and securely closed its windowed door. Bright amber light and wonderful heat both flooded forth and the room felt perfect.
"Not only that," said brother, "but Jesus really wanted everyone to be good. He told everyone who would listen to Him about His Father, God, and how it pleases God when people are good to each other. It will be Christmas time again soon," he continued, "and the story of Jesus is a good one to hear!"
"That's true," said Grandfather. "In fact, it's the greatest story ever told."
Reaching past the young lad to the table for his Bible, he carefully began opening its worn pages to the Gospel of Luke as the girls made a place for him to rejoin them in the chair. "It's the story of how God sent His only Son into the world, to tell everyone about God's wonderful love for them."
"And for us, too!" shouted the two sisters happily. Grandfather smiled broadly as he sat down and quietly gave thanks for moments like these. His heart soared.
Grandfather said to them, "And that special love will never fade, or grow cold like that old woodstove when no one tends it." He spoke confidently, every bit as sure of his words as of the presence of his grandchildren.
At that very moment, somewhere, a serene pleasure was being felt and a deep satisfaction was growing. Somewhere, a loving smile was forgiving many pasts and welcoming new futures.
As Grandfather began reading from the treasured Scriptures, helped by his granddaughters in keeping his place on the long-loved pages, the chill wind blowing outside the simple cabin was ignoring the low angle of the sun.
It would soon be dark and it would get much colder. Listening to Grandfather, the children quickly forgot all about hearing of anyone named Mr. Smith. Outside, the leaves kept up their crazy chase all around the long-shadowed yard.
Most of them seemed to be still looking for places to hide from the tireless confusion of the wind until they could return to the soil. The late season of the year was passing, and cleaning up as it went.
Together they all read the story of the birth of Jesus, which was the very first Christmas, and of God's everlasting care to those who love Him.
And, it turned out to be a very good day after all.
- The End -
Grandfather & The Three Mr. Smith's / © L.L. Hamilton, Jr.
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