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