Once upon a time, not too long ago, in a land where each of us has often been, there lived a very strange, yet vaguely familiar-looking character. He was not too big, but not too small. Not too short, but not too tall. He had big, over-sized hands, a terribly undersized heart, and, I'm afraid, a very sour-puss face.
Yes, it was true. He was one of those terribly rude, often crude, rarely good creatures known as a Gimme.
This Gimme, as it turns out, lived in a big old mansion on the top of the town's highest hill. It was often said among the townspeople that the mansion at one time had been the grandest, happiest home in the village – cool in the summer and warm in the winter, with huge brick fireplaces that heated every room with the warm fragrance of burning, crackling logs.
Now, however, since Mr. Gimme had lived in the house, it was old and crickety, with such high grass and thick vines that it really resembled very strongly a deep, dark cave – with Mr. Gimme as its hermit.
And what a sad, grouchy old hermit Mr. Gimme was. He would yell, and he would holler, and he'd pinch every dollar 'til you'd almost hear the poor thing scream for help. It was said that when old Mr. Gimme went to the store to buy things, he'd never be polite, but would bark out angrily, "Gimme this and gimme that, or I'll hit you with my hat!"
And Mr. Gimme's hat was a fearful thing to behold. It was a tall and tarnished, black as a cat and hard as a bat. It seemed to reach almost to the very clouds in the sky – and block out the rising sun!
Now, let me make it clear: nobody had ever really seen Mr. Gimme hit anyone with his hat, and nobody ever wanted to. But, then, nobody had ever seen him without it, either. So, they knew he must use it for something. And he was so grouchy that no one ever dared to ask him what he used it for.
Mr. Gimme was so extremely grouchy, in fact, that all over town, when he wasn't around, he was known far and wide as mean "Ol' Man Gimme"!
So, that was Ol' Man Gimme -- the baddest of the bad and, as is so often the case with someone who is bad, the saddest of the sad. And, I fear that Mr. Gimme was also very, very selfish. In fact, I must tell you that to Ol' Man Gimme, even Christmas, itself wasn't a time for cheer.
That's right, to Ol' Man Gimmie, that most wonderful time of the year merely meant raising the prices on all of the toys in his toy factory and making all of his poor employees work extra hard – even on Christmas Eve.
Hovering over his tired workers like a hungry, red-eyed vulture, he would decide how many of each toy he needed and then shout at the top of his very large lungs, "Gimme this and gimme that, or I'll hit you with my hat!"
Then, when he was sure he could sell no more toys, Mr. Gimme would tramp angrily home through the freshly fallen snow, ignore the cheerful Christmas carolers, and stalk up to his dark, cave-like house to count his money by candlelight. Many of those who knew him best (and often said they wish they didn't) swore that his Christmas letter Santa read:
"Gimme money, gimme toys.
Gimme sadness, keep your joys.
Gimme everything you have that I can use.
Gimme silver, gimme gold,
Whether new or whether old –
Gimme right now just whatever I may choose.
Gimme this and gimme that,
Or I'll hit you with my hat,
And I hope it leaves a big and ugly bruise!"
Have a rotten Christmas,
Poor old, wretched, miserable Mr. Gimme; he even seemed to hate dear old Santa Claus, himself.
One Christmas, as it happened, Ol' Man Gimme was in an exceptionally bad mood. Which was very sad, indeed, because it happened to be an exceptionally beautiful Christmas.
All during the week before Christmas, he had been nasty to everyone he had seen. He had made fun of the Salvation Army lassie ringing her bell n the snow. He had held his ears when he heard beautiful carols drifting through the crisp winter air. And whenever he had seen pretty Christmas displays in store windows, he had even soaped the windows!
Huddled beneath his oversized hat, holding out his oversized hand, he would rudely reply to a cheery "Merry Christmas, sir" with his customary, "Christmas, smishmas, snakes, snails, and puppy-dog tails!" Now, it's true that nobody really knew exactly what that meant. But, everyone knew, that it sure didn't mean "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
And, oh my, his poor, poor workers. They worked hurriedly and sadly, smiling little and laughing even less. There were two reasons for their fast work. For one, they worked fast because, as I have already told you, hovering over them, waving his hat like a big black bat, was the mean old gimme.
And two, they worked fast to keep warm. Oh yes, it was true, Mr. Gimme simply refused to put heat into his toy shop. "If it's not too cold for you to waste your time sledding down the town hill, or making those – ugh – snow angels, it's not too cold to work," he would snarl. And with that, he'd raise his oversized hand, climb up on his oversized stand, and shout, "Now, get to work and gimme a toy!"
If anyone ever dared to ask for time off for Christmas, Ol' Man Gimme would sneer and say, "All right … starting right now -- and lasting forever!" And then, he'd laugh very, very cruelly.
Finally, after a week of hating everybody and everything, Christmas Eve arrived for mean old Mr. Gimme. He let his workers off exactly as the big town clock struck twelve (not because he wanted to, but because the law said he had to), bundled himself up in his customary black boots, trench coat, and top hat, and angrily trudged home.
Everyone left, giving Ol' Man Gimme a hearty "Merry Christmas, sir" (to which he, of course, responded, "Christmas, smishmas, snakes, snails, and puppy-dog tails"). And then, finally, after locking up, Ol' Man Gimme himself started to leave.
For Ol' Man Gimme, it had begun as every other Christmas night had begun, and it continued as every other Christmas night had ended – with him sitting alone in the dark, dreary Gimme Mansion trying to shut out the sounds of the carols drifting through the cold night air.
But, for Mr. Gimme, this Christmas night was about to be different. As different as a snowflake from coal dust … As different as a tear drop from an angel's touch.
Just as he finished locking the big, splintery, wooden door and began stumbling homeward in the dark, Ol' Man Gimme felt a tiny tug on his coattail. And he heard a sweet, little voice say, "Mr. Gimme, would you come with me on this snowy Christmas Eve to see some sights and hear some sounds you've never heard?"
Ol' Man Gimme wheeled quickly around and lit a match to see who it was. Staring starkly down, he saw standing barefoot in the snow what seemed to be a little, wide-eyed girl looking lovingly up at him. Staring more closely, he saw on her back, almost hidden in the folds of her tiny white robe, what appeared to be two velvet-like wings. And on her little chest was a big … in fact, a very big – glittering, gleaming – oversized heart of pure gold!
Ol' Man Gimme's first impulse was to reach out with one of his own oversized hands, grab the oversized heart, and run. But, instead, he glared at her and sternly said, "Who are you, why are you here – and what do you want from me?"
"Oh, I don't want anything from you," the little creature answered sweetly. "I want to give you some Christmas joy. You see, Mr. Gimme, I'm a Givya."
"Well," Ol' Man Gimme barked back, "then hurry up and gimme it. I'm in a hurry. Gotta get home and count my money. No time for things that are stupid and funny." And with that, he tried to push her aside.
But, much to his surprise, the innocent little Givya didn't even budge an inch. Instead, she meekly reached up and took Ol' Man Gimme's oversized hand in her own tiny palm. "But, first, Mr. Gimme," she pleaded, "you've just got to come with me. There's much you need to see for all that I hope you will be."
Mr. Gimme jerked his hand away angrily. "Some trick," he said. "Trying to get me in the alley to beat me up and take my money. I know you're type. You're small – but you're wiry. Now, go on and scat, you little urchin, or I'll hit you with my hat!" And, as Ol' Man Gimme finished yelling, he started reaching for his oversized hat.
Still, the little Givya wasn't afraid. "Won't you please come," she pleaded.
"No!" snapped Ol' Man Gimme. "Now, let me be." And he continued reaching for his hat, almost touching the hard-edged brim.
Suddenly, the little Givya waved her hand in the crisp night air – and Mr. Gimme froze in place! And with that, the little Givya tenderly reached up, grabbed his oversized hand, and began pulling him gently through the falling snow flakes.
"Now, Mr. Gimme," she said, "I'm going to take you to a few places right here where you live to teach you something about the true meaning of Christmas. Nobody can see us, but we can see everybody. Though I'm afraid you'll sometimes wish you couldn't. Are you ready?"
Ol' Man Gimme, still as a statue, of course, said nothing – but his eyes sneered meanly at the smiling little Givya.
It wasn't long before Mr. Gimme and the little Givya were on the steps of a huge, rundown building. It needed painting and much rebuilding – and somehow, it just seemed to look as if the walls were about to weep. Slowly they went up the steps, gently gliding through the fluffy white snow, and entered through the sadly sagging doors.
Inside, the walls were cracked, the furniture was worn, and the few, hanging light bulbs barely lit the barren rooms. Ol' Man Gimme's eyes glanced wildly about the big room in which he and the little Givya were standing. Seated all around, staring blankly ahead with drawn faces and empty eyes were many aged and lonely people.
Some were bent and some were dying. Some were withered and some were crying. All were shadows of the people they'd once been. In one corner of the large, chilly room was a poorly decorated, very shabby little Christmas tree. And beneath it were no gifts at all.
Softly and sadly, the little Givya begin to whisper, her wide eyes brimmed with tears.
"Mr. Gimme," she said, "no one cares about them anymore. Here it is Christmas Eve, yet no one cares and no one comes. Their children have all grown up and are celebrating Christmas on their own. They're having a good time making toasts and swapping gifts somewhere in this very town.
"But here, in the "Home for the Aged," no one's laughing, no one's giving – they're all just barely living – because no one cared enough to come and take them home.
"It's Christmas, Mr. Gimme, a time when once they loved their own little children. They made them cookies and gave them toys. They brought them laughter and Christmas joys. But, now, no one cares enough to give them anything. No one cares enough to share. Are you ready to go?"
As the two left unseen, the little Givya looked up and noticed on Mr. Gimme's face an ever-so-slight look of sadness. Slowly and without speaking, the two Christmas Eve companions went on through the cold night air never uttering a word.
They passed laughing carolers and little children frolicking merrily near the town Christmas tree and manger scene. On one corner, they passed a little stone church snuggled in the snow among a grove of glistening pines. Inside, a Christmas Eve service was going on, and Mr. Gimme and little Givya paused to listen to what the preacher was saying.
He spoke about the birth of the baby Jesus so many years ago. Of the shepherds who came to kneel at his manger. And the Wise Men who brought him gifts of love.
The little Givya looked up at Mr. Gimme, who was still trying to sneer, but not very well, and said, "You still care, don't you, Mr. Gimme?"
The next stop for the two travelers was a big building on the edge of town – the hospital. Up two fights of steps they quickly flew to the children's ward.
There, little boys and girls were spending Christmas away from home. Mr. Gimme's eyes slowly shifted to a scene in the corner of the hospital room opposite the Christmas tree. There, a frail mother was hovering over a very sick little boy. Her eyes were filled with tears, and her look was touched with tender love as the little boy looked up at her with questioning eyes and said, "Are you sure, Momma … are you sure Santa will be able to find me here?"
Mr. Gimme turned and bit his lip to try to fight his own feelings. But, still, a single tear formed at the corner of one eye and slowly made its way down his reddened cheek.
"Mr. Gimme," little Givya said quietly, "their mommies and daddies are the only ones that come to see them. There was a time when carolers came to sing, and others brought them cookies and gifts. But now, everyone's too busy. It would mean so very much for them to feel a stranger's touch, but … Oh, well, are you ready to go?"
The little Givya looked up and saw the tear roll all the way down Mr. Gimme's face to the tip of his chin and fall to the floor with a plink. He shook his head as if to say "No more." But little Givya pulled him on.
Through the deepening snow they went. Past stores with brightly decorated windows, houses with twinkling lights, and people with armloads of gifts and goodies. It was Christmas Eve, my dear, time for joy and time for cheer, the hap-happiest time of the year, time to laugh and live and love, time to thank the Lord above.
Little Givya looked up at Mr. Gimme and said, "Only one more place to go -- and I'll be gone." Mr. Gimme, bent and humbled, slowly nodded in total silence.
Soon, Mr. Gimme and little Givya were in front of a small shabby house on the poorest side of town. The shades were drawn, and inside, no singing could be heard. Mr. Gimme began shaking his head and pulling away.
"I know you don't want to go in there, Mr. Gimme." Little Givya said, "but that's exactly why we must." And with that, she led Mr. Gimme into the dark and lonely home of one of his own workers.
Kneeling on the floor, in front of a scrawny, barely decorated Christmas tree was Mrs. Riley, the wife of a Gimme Factory toymaker. She had her faced cupped in her hands and couldn't stop crying.
"Oh, Bill, one little toy … that's all we have for Billy and Joey. And a paper doll for Betty. Oh, Bill, this isn't any kind of Christmas. Christmas is for giving. And we … we have nothing to give."
Mr. Riley shook his head sadly and tenderly put his hand on his wife's shoulder. "Now, now, honey. You know the kids will understand. It just takes all Mr. Gimme pays me just to get by. I'm sorry. I really wanted better for you than this." And with that, Mr. Riley, too, cupped his face in his hands.
Mr. Gimme looked at little Givya to hear what she had to say. But, little Givya didn't look up. Her face was cupped in her hands, too.
Finally, she took Mr. Gimme' by the sleeve and led him away. And as she did, he openly wept and sobbed. Through the town they went. Up a hill. Across a ridge. Down a street. Over a bridge. To Mr. Gimme's house. And all the way, he wept.
When they finally got to the house – which even looked a little Christmassy, covered as it was by snow – the little Givya waved her hand as she had done before. And Mr. Gimme could move!
He kept weeping for a precious few seconds and then looked down and said ashamedly, "Is there … is there anything I can do to help? I'm a little tired of getting. I guess … well, I guess I really want to give something … somehow … to someone."
Little Givya looked up with her large, sad eyes and said, "Do what you may, but remember where you've been. By the dawn of the day, you can change what you've seen." And with a flutter of her wings, the little Givya vanished into the dark.
Mr. Gimme started to go after her, yelling, "Come back! I need you … I need you!" But, suddenly, he stopped and looked at this watch. "Only four hours until the sun comes up!" he muttered, smiling weakly. "Got to hurry."
Turning quickly, Mr. Gimme bumped into a small pine tree, knocking snow from its limbs in every direction. "Merry Christmas!" he exclaimed. Then, suddenly he paused, glancing around him almost in disbelief. "Christmas, smishmas –" he started to mumble, then stopped in his tracks.
"No!" he shouted instead, tossing his hat high into the air. "Merry Christmas – Merry Christmas, sugar and spice and everything nice!
Now, I've got to hurry, not a moment to tarry." And with that, he opened his door, ran up the steps, and grabbed his telephone.
Humming what he vaguely remembered of "Jingle Bells," and a few other assorted carols, he hurriedly dialed.
"Bill Riley," Mr. Gimme growled into the phone, trying his best not to break out in laughter.
"Yes sir, Mr. Gimme," Mr. Riley answered wearily, fearing he was being called back to work."
"Bill Riley," Mr. Gimme said, "Merry Christmas, boy! Merry, merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas, sir?" Mr. Riley replied hesitantly. "Sir, do you feel all right?"
"Never felt better, Bill Riley. Now, Merry Christmas – and get yourself and all the other workers down to the plant right now. Bring some boxes. Lots of boxes. Boy, we've got some giving to do!"
That night was the biggest night of Mr. Gimme's life. And everyone else's, too. Not only did he give toys – lots of toys – to all of his workers (along with a month's pay and a week off). He also stopped by the old folks' home … and the hospital – dressed as you know who!
Then, he rushed to the little stone church and joined some carolers just going out to sing. When they saw him arrive, they were all of a sudden too shocked to sing. But, Mr. Gimme made up for it by singing twice as loud!
The next day – Christmas Day – Mr. Gimme set himself up on the corner opposite the Salvation Army lassie. Not only did he send enough money across the street to weigh down the red kettle. He was doing some other giving of his own, as well.
With the snow falling all around, and the sounds of the Christmas season echoing in the air, he was giving turkeys to the grown-ups, toys to the kids, and candy canes to one and all.
And where was he keeping all these wonderful gifts, and more? You guessed it – in his great big, oversized hat. Which, by the way, now went very well with his brand new oversized heart of pure gold.
And from that day to this, in that little town not too far away, Ol' Man Gimme is now known as "Good Old Mr. G" – and though no one really knows for sure what the "G" stands for, they occasionally get a hint when they catch a fleeting glimpse of the angel on his shoulder …
So, when Christmas time is near,
And you're filled with Christmas cheer –
Whether you're all grown up, or little girls and boys –
Think of just what you should be
And of Good Old Mr. G
And his great big heart full of Christmas toys!