A Christmas Story -- A True Story of a Holiday Miracle-- A John Harricharan Adventure. It could be yours, too! Long, long ago, in a small, tropical village in a country far, far away, a little boy lived with his parents in a two room house. He could not have been more than four or five years old and his entire experience of life was limited to the fishing and farming village, his neighbors and friends. It wasn't that the little boy was unhappy. Given his situation, he was a rather cheerful, optimistic lad, but times were hard for his parents. The village was recovering from the recent floods that had wiped out his parents livelihood. And the Christmas holidays were just around the corner. Now in this little village of long ago, people of various religions lived and worked together in harmony. Everyone enjoyed each other's religious holidays and everyone looked forward to the celebrations where Christians, Hindus, Muslims and others would gather. The parents would provide gifts for the children and little boys and little girls would squeal with delight as they played with their simple toys. It wasn't an expensive gift by today's standards, but in that village of long ago, as Christmas approached, any gift would be considered expensive. Yes, you and I would probably smile when we realize that all the little boy wanted was a balloon -- just a simple little blue balloon. You see, the little boy had seen pictures of brightly colored balloons and had even seen balloons that belonged to children of more affluent families. But he had never had his own balloon and so he longed for one. In the village, balloons were only sold in one shop and that shop was far from the little boy's home. And the cost of a balloon? Just one penny! You would think that a penny was hardly anything, but in those days, literally every penny had to be used very carefully. When the little boy's parents had to choose between food and a balloon, the choice was naturally food. The little boy was very sad. For weeks he had been thinking of the lovely, blue balloon he would get for Christmas. After another day or so, his mother, like all good mothers, determined to find her little boy a penny to get his blue balloon. Again, like most mothers, she sacrificed her own needs to get her son his wish. Imagine how happy the little boy was! Clutching the penny tightly in his small hand, he set off for the store. He did not care that he would have to walk for more than a mile in the blazing hot, tropical sun to get his balloon. He moved as fast as his little legs would carry him -- sometimes half-running and then walking quickly. Now he would have his blue balloon. But fate played a trick on the little boy. There was no blue balloon at the store -- only one balloon was left. And it was a drab green one, a color he didn't really like. He probably thought that a green balloon was better than no balloon at all, so he bought and paid for it. But things were to get much worse very quickly As he was returning home, he decided to inflate the balloon by blowing air into it. Suddenly, there was a loud sound and the balloon burst into pieces. At first, the boy couldn't believe it. He just stopped and stared at the rubbery shards in his hand. After all the trouble to get this one balloon and then, just like in life, in a split second it was gone. He continued walking home and although he was a brave little chap, tears streamed down his cheeks. After all, he was just four or five years old. His parents would not be able to spare another penny to buy a replacement balloon. And even if they were able to, there were no balloons left in the store. By now, his tiny feet were tired from all the walking so he sat down on a little rock at the side of the road. That's when he saw the stranger. He wasn't quite sure why he hadn't seen the man sooner. He must have been too absorbed in his own problems to notice anything. Rarely were there strangers who came through the village. The man smiled a kindly smile and inquired of the little boy why he had tears in his eyes. The little boy explained his plight. With a knowing wink, the man reached into a bag he was carrying on his shoulder and pulled out a small box. "I have a gift for you," he said as he handed the box to the little boy. "Go ahead. Open it," he continued. Imagine the surprise of the little boy as he peered into the box and saw three, uninflated, beautiful blue balloons, each one with a picture of a star on it. He turned to say "thank you" to the stranger, but there was nobody there. The man was gone. Perhaps it was an angel, thought the little boy. Or maybe the stranger just disappeared into thin air. But that would be magic, reasoned the little fellow. You see, there is magic in the heart and soul of every little boy and every little girl on Earth. They know it, but they forget the magic as they grow older. Years have come and years have gone, but that was one of the happiest Christmas I ever spent. Every once in a while, or perhaps, even more often than once in a while, if I choose to sit quietly and revisit that scene of yesteryear, I could still see the kindness in the stranger's eyes and the beautiful stars on the blue balloons. It was a great lesson that I learned that day. Sometimes when life takes something away from you, it is only because it wants to bring you something much better. Life took my little balloon because it wanted me to have three beautiful, bigger and better balloons. We may not understand why things happen the way they do, but this I know: If we trust the process and we keep on keeping on, the dark valleys of life will eventually lead into beautiful fields of light and splendor. You are cared for and protected by a Force that transcends time and space -- a Force that has existed forever and that loves you unconditionally. Last, but not least, I must tell you this before I go! If you want to help a little boy or a little girl get a toy this holiday season, I will give you a link where you can make a contribution to "Toys for Tots". Each year, my dear friend, Rick Beneteau, runs a campaign to raise funds to provide some needy children with a few precious gifts. Rick has been doing this year after year, and in some ways, he reminds me of the stranger who walked through the little village and brought me the three beautiful, blue balloons. A contribution of any amount would be welcomed. It could be as small as a dollar or as large as you want to make it. And it's easy to contribute through Paypal (I just made my contribution). No matter how bad things may be with us, we can always decide to help someone by giving even a small amount. For it is in giving that we are able to receive blessings beyond our fondest dreams. Here is the link for "Toys for Tots": http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=7Fg57&m=1ZI3k6NGSNLhMX&b=ygg4aWcuwywwCmO2inKK5A (InternetToyDrive.org) I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season. It doesn't matter which holidays you celebrate or not celebrate, we are all in one great celebration, the celebration of life. May this season and the coming new year be filled with peace, joy, prosperity and all good things for you. Always, John P.S. Please forward this story to your friends and relatives and let's light up the world with goodwill.