Charlie picked up his lunch bucket that Sarah had fixed him and headed for the front door. He was running late this morning. It seemed as though he was always late anymore.
Sarah, his wife, needed so much more help since she was going to have another baby. This would be their fourteenth child. You see, Charlie is a sow bug. Almost all sow bugs work for the International Soil Bank. They help process soil for the entire World. Charlie was a good husband and father but he had not gotten a very good education, so he had not received the promotions that some of the other sow bugs had gotten. However, Charlie was not unhappy. He thought lovingly of Sarah and his thirteen children. They were the most important thing in his life.
It was the Christmas season and as he was on his way to work, Charlie was very worried. You see, sow bugs as you know, have a lot of feet. All the children in the family needed new shoes. The children were growing and their shoes wore out very quickly. They always had food and a roof over their head but there never was enough money for any extras. But shoes, what with winter being here, the children just had to have new shoes. He and Sarah had talked about it for the past month trying to figure out a way to get the money. Charlie knew Sarah was very worried and he loved her so much that he didn't want her to worry so he put on a brave face and told her he would take care of it.
For the next week Charlie thought and thought trying to figure out a way to get the new shoes. He was so worried that when he went to bed at night all he did was toss and turn. Finally he came up with a plan. One of the few possessions that Charlie had was his violin. He had been playing the violin since childhood. His grandfather had given it to him as a little boy and he had treasured it his whole life. He would come home from work, have dinner, and then Sarah and the children would beg him to play. How they all loved the music. Sarah would hold the baby and the children would all hold hands and dance around him as he played. He would always treasure those memories.
He decided that he could take the violin to the pawn shop and get a loan on it, then he would have the money he needed to buy the shoes. He just hoped that he would be able to earn enough extra money to buy it back before Sarah discovered what he had done. But the most important thing was that the children would be able to have a nice Christmas.
The next day was Saturday, exactly two weeks until Christmas and Charlie was able to sneak out with the violin, without anyone seeing him. He went directly to the pawn shop. It took a lot of bargaining on his part but he managed to get enough money for the shoes and have just enough left for a wonderful Christmas dinner. What a great surprise he would have for Sarah and the children.
It took Charlie several days to get all the shoes home and hidden so no one would find them until Christmas. As Charlie went to work all that week he felt very warm and happy knowing that his family would have a nice Christmas, but he was also a little sad because he already missed his beloved violin. What Charlie didn't plan on, was the event that was to take place next.
The pawn shop that Charlie had gone to was in a part of town that he knew Sarah had never been in, so he had no reason to suspect that she would go there at this particular time. However, Sarah could no longer afford to go to the same doctor she had been going to. She had switched to a small inexpensive clinic, located in the downtown area. She had to take the bus there, but she didn't care as long as she was saving money that the family needed for food.
It was a week before Christmas and since the doctor would be closed for the holidays, Sarah had to go for her checkup two weeks early. The bus stop was three long blocks from the doctors office. Since Sarah didn't get out often by herself, she welcomed the chance to look in the store windows. As she passed one particular store she saw something very familiar, hanging inside the store. She couldn't believe her eyes. It was Charlies' violin. There was no doubt about it. She would reconize it anywhere.
She knew immediately what Charlie had done. At first she was a little angry and somewhat hurt that Charlie had not talked it over with her. But then she realized that the only reason that he would ever part with his most cherished possession was beause he loved her and the children so much and wanted them to have a happy Christmas.
Sarah had been pondering what to get Charlie for Christmas and she knew that this was it. Somehow she had to get his violin back. Sarah went on to the doctors office and all the while there she was trying to think of a way to get some money so she could buy back the precious violin. Finally she knew what she had to do.
The only things that Sarah had that were worth any money was her engagement ring and her wedding ring. Now these rings meant much more to Sarah than money but she knew that it was the only way that she was going to get the violin back. All she could think about was how much she loved Charlie and how happy he would be.
As soon as she left the doctors office she went to the pawn shop and explained what she wanted. The pawn shop owner finally agreed to let her take the violin in exchange for the rings. After swearing the pawn shop owner to secrecy, Sarah rushed home and hid the violin in a safe place.
As Christmas approached, Charlie had been trying to figure out a way to get Sarah some little gift so he could surprise her, because he knew she wasn't expecting anything, as long as they could provide a nice Christmas for the children. But try as hard as he might, it was Christmas eve before he knew it.
It was just before quitting time at the plant, and the foreman told Charlie he was wanted in the front office. Charlie was very worried because he knew times were hard and the company had been laying off some of the other sow bugs.
As he approached the front office, he realized that in all the years he had worked for the company he had never been to the front office. Finally he stood in front of the very large door and gently knocked on it. The door opened and he was greeted by a very dressed up gentleman and taken to another larger and much more formal office and told to take a seat. In a few moments a very distinguished gentlemen came in. He had a kindly face, but Charlie was very uneasy.
The gentleman spoke and said, "So you're Charlie. My name is Mr. Samuels. I'm the president and chief executive officer of The International Soil Bank. Your record has been brought to my attention. As you know we have thousands of employees and I'm sure that the ones who are in the lower rungs of the corporate ladder feel that management doesn't know they exist. You couldn't be more wrong. You see, we couldn't be here without workers like you. I see by your record that in fifteen years, you have never missed a day of work, nor have you ever been late. According to your supervisor, you do your job in a happy, competent manner, never complaining. I feel that this attitude and work history deserves reward.
I realize that this is Christmas eve and even though times are hard I'm going to give you a Christman bonus. In addition you will have a small raise starting today. Your supervisor, Mr. Johnson will be retiring in three months and you will be promoted to his position.
You see Charlie, your type of dedication and hard work does pay off.
As Charlie left the front office he could not believe what had just taken place. As he left the plant he checked the envelope with the Christmas bonus and found that there was just enough money to get his violin back plus a small amount left over for a present for Sarah. He couldn't wait to get to the pawn shop and get home to his family. When he got to the pawn shop he thought he would look in the window and maybe find a little gift for Sarah. As he searched over all the items displayed in the window, suddenly something caught his eye. He felt a sinking in his heart. Could it be? Yes, it definitely was Sarahs' rings. At first he didn't know what to think. How could it be? After a moment, he realized what she had done. He knew that she was trying to help in the only way she could. He knew that she had pawned her rings to get the children the shoes for Christmas.
At that point all Charlie could think about was that he could use the money and get Sarahs rings instead of his violin. They could take the shoes that she had purchased back after Christmas and get a refund and then he could get his violin back. In his excitement he didn't even notice that his violin was not there. Charlie had the pawn shop owner wrap Sarahs rings in a very nice little package with a beautiful red bow on it and then rushed home.
Christmas eve had always been a quite time for Charlie and his family. Charlie always had to tell the children stories. Especially the one about the Great Santa from the northern-most Soil Bank, who would bring presents for everyone. Charlie was very excited and wanted so much to tell Sarah about everything that had happened that day, but knew he had to save it until Christmas day. After putting out the traditional soil-carrot cookies for Santa, everyone went to bed.
The next morning was Christmas. The children were out of bed early. They rushed into the living room and there by the tree were all the boxes of new shoes. Each child had a beautiful box with their name on it. All of them started putting on their new shoes and were so full of laughter and happiness, that it woke Charlie and Sarah. They came running in to join in all the festivities. As they stood with their arms around each other, Sarah gave Charlie a big hug and said, "Have I got a surprise for you." She ran out and got the package and brought it in and handed it to him.
As he opened it, all the children gathered around. Charlie slowly untied the ribbon and started to unfasten the paper and the children started shouting, "Hurry, hurry, Dad," because he was taking too much time. So, Charlie ripped the paper off and to his astonishment, there was his precious violin. He said, "Sarah, however did you manage this?" Sarah replied, "Honey, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you have your violin back." At that instant it dawned on Charlie what Sarah done. She had pawned her rings to get his violin, not buy shoes. Tears came to his eyes and he gave her a big hug and a kiss. He said, "Wait! I have a present for you." He told her to look up in the middle of the Christmas tree, in the branches. Sarah spied the little small box with the beautiful red ribbon on it and reached in and got it. She said, "Charlie, what can it be?" He said, "Open it and find out." As she opened it and discovered her rings inside, Sarah burst our crying. "Charlie, how could you possible have gotten the money?" she said among her tears. Charlie then told her the whole story of the previous day. About the raise, the bonus and his upcoming promotion. Everyone was so happy.
After a great Christmas breakfast that Sarah fixed with the food that Charlie had bought with the extra money, the children all wanted Charlie to play the violin. As Charlie was playing and watching the children dancing, he saw Sarahs happy face. He believed that he had everything that a sow bug could ever want and that he would always remember this as his best Christmas. And throughout the rest of his life, that proved to be true .