“Hello Hank,” said the woman.
Hank sat down on the ground.
“Are you unwell, Hank? Come inside.”
Hank let the woman take him inside. She gave him cookies once again and he felt himself coming back to his senses.
“You look like someone who has opened his eyes after a long sleep, Hank,” said the woman.
He indeed felt that way.
“What were you doing outside my house at this hour? Did you come here to ruin my Christmas?”
Hank shook his head.
“That’s a good boy,” she said. “Perhaps you have understood that you are not the only one in pain. There is pain all around, and we cannot just go about assigning blame for that.”
She gave him a bag with several small boxes in it.
“What is this?” asked Hank.
“These are your Christmas gifts for people in this neighborhood,” said the woman. Hank looked at her, not understanding. “Don’t you think it’s time you wished them a Merry Christmas? Do that. But before you ring their doorbells, make sure to peep into their windows.”
“You will see. Now go.”
First, he stood before the window of the Hammonds. They laughed and danced and made merry, but then Hank saw the picture hanging on the wall. He knew the person. It was their son, Justin, who had died a few years ago. Hank was very young at that time, but he remembered how the Hammonds had cried when he had died.
He rang their doorbell and stood at the door.
Mrs. Hammond came out and, seeing who was at the door, immediately called her husband.
“I only came to wish you, Mrs. Hammond,” said Hank. “Merry Christmas to you.” He gave her one of the cookie boxes, and without waiting for her reaction, left the door.
He came to the window of the Junebottoms, but he saw a totally different picture of what he usually saw. The husband and wife were fighting over something. They were almost at each other’s necks. Their children stood in a corner watching them fight, covering their ears. There was nothing they could do.
Hank rang the doorbell. Mrs. Junebottom came out, angrily, and Hank did the same thing again. He didn’t wait for them to reply.
Mr. Ginmallow had seated himself on a couch and he was panting heavily. Mrs. Ginmallow was by his side, fanning him and frantically calling the doctor. Hank realized how Mr. Ginmallow had the dreadful sugar disease. He couldn’t eat anything he wanted; he couldn’t enjoy whatever he had.
He gave them the cookies too, but left wondering that he won’t be able to eat them at all.
A magical transformation happened in the lives of the Greenhorns that Christmas. All the families came to their house with gifts too, and Mrs. Greenhorn didn’t know what to tell them. She didn’t know anything about the cookies, and hence the invitations to their homes surprised her all the more. She spoke to everyone quite happily. Hank hadn’t seen his mother this happy in years.
His father came home on Christmas Eve with wonderful news too. He had been promoted to cashier. Mr. Hammond knew the manager of the supermarket and it was no secret that he had put in a good word about him.
The children called Hank to play with them too. Hank was the happiest child in Wishing Cross that year.
“You are a good boy, Hank,” said Marsha Ginmallow.
“I try, Marsha,” said Hank.
“What made this happen?” The innocent minds of children are free of hang-ups such as tact. Marsha didn’t think twice before asking this question.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Perhaps something happened at the house of the woman.”
“The new woman who has come to stay in Willow Grange.”
“There is no one staying at Willow Grange,” she said loudly. The other children asked her what she was speaking about. When they heard, they all told him the same thing, “There is no one staying at Willow Grange.”
At that moment, Hank left everyone puzzled and ran to the house of the old woman. He stood at the door and knocked. He did that repeatedly, but there was no answer.
Then, a fat figure emerged from one of the windows. It was a man with a round face and flowing white beard, and Hank suddenly exclaimed: “Santa Claus!”
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the reply.
“Is the woman inside?”
“There is — was — no one inside but me!” laughed Santa. “Nice warm place to be! And such nice people.”
“Are you leaving now?”
“Yes,” he said. “There are many more sad children around the world. Got to go and spread a little cheer before it’s too late.”
And Hank Greenhorn saw the jolly red man rising up into the sky, in almost the same way he had done a few days ago, and realized there was still hope left in the world.