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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 29th day of Gathering, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 122 > Short Stories > To Give, to Love

To Give, to Love

by smileyface12_5690

Winter was starting to settle in. Frost lined the windows all throughout Neopia Central and snow was falling thickly on the ground. The cheery red faces of the many shoppers never ceased their smiles as they rushed to grab their last purchases before the holidays. Emotions ran high through the streets, and joy and love spread across Neopia. It was a wonderful time to be alive, and I made sure that I was part of it.

     Every morning I would grab my mittens, my coat, and my boots and set out to go window shopping with my friends, Pamelia and Delsi. We loved to see the trinkets and toys in the toy shop, the freshly baked holiday breads and cookies at the bakery, and the newest installment of Christmas petpets jumping around gleefully in the Petpet Shop. We never bought anything, but we had fun all the same.

     And everyday, as we headed back home just when the sun began to set beyond the horizon, I saw the same booth by the Money Tree asking for donations for the poor. My friends and I would gather up our leftover change from lunch and put some in the basket, smiling at the gracious faces who would give us a flower in return for our kindness. It made me feel wonderful to know that our Neopoints were given to a good cause, especially just around the holidays.

     My name was Richelle. I was a small yellow Chia, hardly noticeable to anyone. But when I put my money into that basket, I finally felt like I was being recognized for doing something great. It was a wonderful feeling. I told mother about the donations, too, and she looked more proud of me than she had ever been before.

     As Christmas came ever closer, though, I started seeing an old, wrinkled Usul come by the donation booth everyday. Her clothes were shabby, torn, and falling apart; her paws scraggly and chapped. She seemed to be shivering all the time, but didn't mind much. The cart that she pushed around all day held nothing in its broken sides. This woman was poor, and yet she donated to the poor everyday just as we did. She would reach down into her singular, small pocket, and extract a single Neopoint and put it in the basket. Then, after refusing to take a flower, she would slowly walk off, limping all the way back home, using her cart as a walker to help guide her steps.

     "Pfft," Pamelia snorted, laughing slightly. "A single Neopoint? What good is that going to do anyone?" Delsi giggled too, although she said nothing.

     "Don't laugh at her," I said defiantly. As I looked back at the Usul, who had just rounded a corner and disappeared from view, I felt a strange feeling. Was it sympathy? Pity?

     "Why not?" asked Delsi, staring at me as though I were from a foreign planet. "She only gives one Neopoint everyday. I've given at least a thousand alone."

     I said nothing more. Delsi did have a point, but I still felt like the Usul had done a very noble thing. I couldn't figure out why... a measly little Neopoint could hardly do anyone any good.

     Everyday the woman returned at the same time, adding one Neopoint to the basket, refusing a flower, and walking away happily as darkness began to settle over the city. Some of the other children made fun of her, and poked her with sticks and hit her and tried to steal the cart from her grasp. A burning rage bubbled up inside of me. I could feel my face crimson whenever my mind entertained such a notion. My anger was only worsened by my friends' taunting laughter and their constant comments of "Oh, she's just an old lady, anyway" and "It's not like she's doing anything worthwhile with herself".

     On the twenty-third of Celebrating, I entered my Neohome with a bang. I threw my wet boots at the wall, tore of mittens and left them on the rug, and tossed my coat onto the floor without a wince. Mother was in the kitchen, baking. My sister, Ezaldra, was in the living room, watching me with wide, condescending eyes.

     "You'd better pick those up, or Mother will get mad," she said bossily, even though she was younger than I was. I grunted and ignored her. She rolled her eyes and continued rearranging the ornaments on the Christmas tree because she had nothing better to do.

     I entered the kitchen. It was warm and had a cheery atmosphere. Mother was just taking out a tray of Christmas cookies when I walked in. She set them on the counter to cool and turned to me, grinning broadly. I frowned.

     "Richelle, what ever is the matter?" she asked, her voice soothing and concerned. I shook my head and sat down at the table. She sat down next to me. "Something is bothering you. What's up?"

     I sighed, taking in a deep breath, and told her all about the Usul at the donation booth and how everyone was poking fun at her. Mother nodded, taking in every word. When I was finished, she hugged me and smiled.

     "So, you say that this woman is very poor?"

     "Yes. Sort of scrubby and wore messy clothes. She couldn't have had much money."

     Mother nodded again. "Did you hear any sounds when she reached into her pocket? Anything that told you that she had any more Neopoints with her? And her cart had absolutely nothing in it?"

     I shook my head, wondering where this was going.

     "Her one Neopoint was much more valuable than any of the other coins in that basket," said Mother, her eyes twinkling. "Everyone else had donated from their excess, from money that they didn't need and perhaps didn't want; she donated from her need. She sacrificed her meal or her clothing and gave it, instead, to someone whom she believed needed it more. That is charity."

     I nodded, but I didn't quite understand. "How is her Neopoint different from mine or anyone else's?"

     "Instead of saving her excess Neopoints everyday so that she could use them for food and other essentials, she gave them away so others could eat and drink from their wealth. A single Neopoint is equal to two, but a million times greater than none."

     I smiled. "I understand. But what can I do? Nothing I say will make them stop laughing."

     "No, no, I suppose not," said Mother, smiling. "But think of something else you can do to help this woman. Here she has done the world so much good, she is so selfless and benevolent; and yet she accepts no reward. She receives insults and rudeness in return for her undying care and love. That, dear, deserves something great. What should we do to show our gratitude of her?"

     I stared at my hand, thinking. "I say we invite her to Christmas dinner."

     Mother smiled and nodded, and went back to baking cookies. I felt much more cheerful.

* * *

The next day, I got up before the sun rose to put on all my outdoor things. The streets were empty this early in the morning, but I was in such high spirits that I didn't care. I hopped around in the snow, waiting for Pamelia and Delsi to wake up and greet the fresh snowy air.

     They lived right next to each other, and I lived just across the street from them, so I didn't have to walk long to get to their Neohomes. I was happy to see that they were up earlier than usual, too. The holiday spirit was definitely in the atmosphere that Christmas Eve. Their faces were warm and bright as they came out all bundled up in their scarves and gloves and big winter boots. The snow was thicker that day, at least two feet deep, and the air was colder than ever. But nothing could ever freeze our warm hearts that day; or at least, so I liked to think.

     Wreaths of holly and sprigs of mistletoe lined all of the shops in the bazaar, and twinkling colored Christmas lights glistened through the dark morning. Snowflakes were still whirling and twirling in the gentle breeze, and small white clouds emitted from Neopets' mouths as they joyfully told each other happy stories. It was a beautiful scene.

     Children of all ages huddled around shops, staring through the thick and frosty glass at the amazing wonders lying beyond the windows. Mothers were pushing carts filled with mountains of goodies and gifts for Christmas. Snowmen were built on street corners, complete with carrot noses, scorched tchea eyes, and tall black top hats to make the season even brighter. Girls were ice skating out in the frozen ponds and boys were having snowball fights in the field. Everyone was having a wonderful time.

     "Hey, stinkbombers!" said Pamelia, quickly forming a good sized snowball and pitching it to the other children. It hit a large Chomby in the side. "Uh-oh..."

     The snowballs were flying at us like cannons; we ran behind some trees to protect ourselves. We were all laughing, picking up more handfuls of snow, and throwing them without checking to see if they hit. Some of the others joined in on our side, running out into the open field to throw their ammo from a closer range. Then...

     "Hey, it's an old lady! Let's throw snowballs at her!"

     I gasped, watching as almost everyone in the snowball fight threw huge handfuls of snow at the Usul passing by. Even Pamelia and Delsi were joining in, teasing and taunting the woman as though she was worth nothing.

     "STOP IT!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. "STOP IT!"

     Everyone turned to look at me. The Weewoos and Pawkeets in nearby trees had been driven away at the sound of my voice. I was fuming, panting from the energy of yelling so loud. The world seemed still and silent. Even the old Usul had turned to stare at me, although I couldn't see her expression beneath her tattered shawl.

     "Why does she deserve to have snowballs thrown at her? She gives up her money everyday to help the poor, and expects no reward for her kindliness. That's a lot more than any of you could do. It doesn't matter if you have a million Neopoints, a billion Neopoints, even a trillion... if you have a cold heart and you can't accept those who may have less than you, then it's worthless. What is this about, really? The fact that she's poor? The fact that she's old? Or the fact that she cares about others more than all of you put together?"

     I turned away, too angry to look at the impact that my speech had created, and walked up to the little old Usul. It was the first time I had seen her up close. She wasn't as old as I had expected her to be; she probably only had a few years on Mother at the most. Her wrinkles were few, but sharp and creased, and her eyes tired yet gleaming in happiness. I realized, after a few short moments, that she was smiling. She was crying, too, but not because she was sad. The next thing I knew I was hugging her, and she was hugging back.

     "Will you please have the honor of attending Christmas dinner at my house? My family would be delighted to have you as a guest," I said once I had managed to pull out of her arms.

     The lady chuckled, but shook her head. "I am afraid that I cannot accept your generous offer. I will not stand for you to waste your money or your time on a frail old woman such as myself."

     "No," I said, a little more defiant. "It is not a waste. Is the Neopoint that you give up everyday to the charity booth a waste? It is not; it is the wisest thing one can do with their money, how ever little of it they may have. It would not be a waste to provide you with a good, warming meal this Christmas as a reward for your love."

     "The only reward for love is love itself," she said.

     "This dinner is out of love. Christmas in itself is love. I love you, and I love what you do with what little you have. Now please, please come to Christmas dinner."

     She laughed again, holding my paws in her own. "Well, you won me over. I would be delighted, dear. I'll be there."

     And with that, she started walking away, tossing me one last smile before she faced ahead and returned to whatever she was doing. I turned around. I had completely forgotten about the other children when I was talking to the old Usul. Now that they had heard my speech and had time to consider, though, their heads had been bowed in shame. Then, one of them ran up to the woman and hugged her tightly, said "I'm sorry" in a true, genuine tone, then hurried back, smiling. I smiled too.

     Another pet ran up and did the same, and then another, and yet another, until finally there was a huge crowd gathered around her. Pamelia and Delsi came out of it, grinning and looking somewhat ashamed at the same time.

     "I'm sorry we made fun of her," said Pamelia. "Me too," said Delsi.

     I laughed lightly. "It's alright, you two, it's alright. Will you be coming to Christmas dinner with us?"

     "Of course!" they said in unison.

     "But first," I began, "let's go home and get some rest. I think a special someone will be coming down the chimney tonight..."

     We all grinned, and walked home even happier than when we had set out that morning.

The End

Authors Note: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed this story. Although I'm not usually one for morals, I really hope that you understand this story's message, especially around the holiday season. Have a great holiday!

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