A Story at Christmas Time
Chris Martin was driving home from his work place earlier than usual. Usually he would leave work about 4:30 pm, but this day he had left at 12 noon. It was Christmas Eve—however, that fact had little to do with Chris’s early departure.
Chris had arrived at his job on time, as usual, at 8:00 am. Out of the 10 years he worked for the company, he was late only twice. Once, when his wife Elizabeth gave birth to their son Daniel, and another when a record snow storm dumped 27 inches of the light and fluffy. To say he was a responsible and dedicated employee would be an under statement, for he was that and much more.
There was a mood of excitement vibrating in the office. Every one seemed to be anticipating the festivities of Christmas Eve, and anxious to have at it. The din of excited voices was a background for the spirited activity going on—people laughing and talking with great animation, exchanging gifts, eating cookies and candy, drinking eggnog and hot apple cider, singing Christmas Carols and some of the men were stealthily maneuvering the attractive girls under the mistletoe to steal a kiss.
Chris too, was caught up in the festive excitement and anticipation of the morning. After work he was to meet his wife and his children, Daniel and Lisa, at his in-law’s house. Of all the delightful experiences of the Christmas season, Chris enjoyed this get-together most. Every Christmas Eve for the past 15 years, Elizabeth’s parents would graciously host a wonderful dinner, followed by the playing of Christmas Carols on the piano with accompaniment of the guest’s voices and then, the opening of gifts.
Chris was standing at the work station of his friend Joe, talking with several other office workers. He asked Joe, “Have you seen Stan?”
Stan was Chris’s best friend at the office and his immediate supervisor.
Joe answered, “No! I haven’t seem him this morning. He’s missing all the fun. Maybe he got caught by one of the big wigs, and has to do some butt-kissing.”
Chris looked at his watch, 11:00 am. He needed several hours to put the finishing touches on a project that was deadlined for today. As he walked to his desk, Chris wondered why Stan wasn’t at the office. It wasn’t like Stan to miss out on all the fun.
Chris sat at his desk and turned on the computer. On the screen was a pulsating message: you’ve got mail. He pulled up the message. It was a memo from Walter Becker, the Vice President of Human Resources, to all the employees of the Department of Engineering Support.
“Due to a decision being made by the Board of Directors, and in keeping with company policy of ‘expense leanness,’ the Department of Engineering Support has been terminated, as of January 1, 2000. All employees of said department must vacate their work work stations by the close of the work day on December 31, 1999. All holiday pay and any vacation pay will be payed in full. Please check with payroll for further questions or details.
This is strictly a business decision, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the overall performance of the department or any of its workers. The department has performed excellently over the years. Human Resources is open to you if you need help in finding new employment or to foreword references.
This memo was in direct violation of the idea of human resources, and its intent was decidedly mean-spirited and hypocritical, regardless of its undertone of apology and guilt. A sociopath seeing his heart’s desire would have acted in a similar manner. Being told the decision was strictly business and that nothing personal was involved, puts in mind scenes in gangster movies, where the Mafia hit-man tells his victim, just before he murders him—”Nothing personal; just business.”
Chris found no comfort or relief in those words because the economic foundation for him and his family had been shattered by the contents of that memo.
Chris printed out a copy of the memo, and with it in hand immediately walked to Stan’s office. He was in such a state of shock and bewilderment that he didn’t notice the uproar in the office. The festive mood had changed to one of discord. Of the 50 people that made up the department, most of the women were sobbing uncontrollably, and the others were angrily shouting and moving about in great agitation.
Stan was not in his office. Chris, for some reason, needed verification of this shocking state of affairs, so he went upstairs in order to speak with Walter Becker. The receptionist recognized Chris as being a worker from the Department of Engineering Support and immediately became uneasy.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “Mr. Becker is not in his office. Would you like to leave a message?”
Chris, almost demanding, asked, “Where did he go?”
She kept her head down so as to not be able to look into Chris’s eyes. “He is at the annual, executive Christmas party at the downtown Hilton. He will not be in his office until Monday.”
Chris quickly turned away without saying another word and walked to the elevator. His original shock and bewilderment was now turned up a notch. But, still feeling the need for verification, pressed the elevator button for the basement. Chris had remembered Stan occasionally used a vacant maintenance rook in the basement when he wanted to, get away from it all.
Chris walked off the elevator toward the maintenance room, still clutching the copy of the memo in his hand. He pushed open the door, and there sat Stan. Stan was sitting on a chair propped against a blank wall. The back of his head was against the wall, and his eyes were gazing on an invisible spot in the blank wall in front of him.
Chris walked into the small room and paused, then pointing to the memo in his hand said, “Do you know about this memo?”
Stan, like the receptionist, avoided looking into Chris’s eyes while he answered, “Yes.”
Chris let out with a series of questions all at once: “What the hell is going on? What are you going to do? How could they be so cold, especially on Christmas Eve? Did you know about this before today? Is it true?”
Stan bent forward, laying his head in both of his hands, saying nothing. Looking intently at Stan waiting for an answer, Chris suddenly understood the truth. With an accusatory tone he said, “You knew all along, didn’t you? How long have you known Stan, two weeks, two months, two years? How long, Stan?”
Stan was silent. Chris continued, “They didn’t terminate you, did they Stan? All that ass-kissing and carousing with Becker finally paid off. That is why you weren’t in your office this morning, and why you are cowering down like Judas. You probably even helped them collect the data that was used to justify terminating the department. They probably promised you a raise and a promotion, right Stan?”
Stan lifted his head from his hands and turned toward Chris and said, “The whole thing was completely out of my hands, I couldn’t do anything about it. There were inefficiencies.”
Stunned by the realization of Stan’s betrayal, Chris said, “I thought you were my friend. You should have told me. Hell, you should have told us all. Stan you should have stood up for us. You betrayed our friendship.”
Chris crumpled up the memo in his hand and threw it at Stan, then turned and walked away in silent gloom. Chris returned to the office, only to find it was empty. He walked to his work station, put on his coat, and left too.
Chris’s initial shock and bewilderment transformed into a continuous inner dialogue of negative thoughts and emotions: What is going to happen to my family? There is the mortgage payment, car payments, insurance, monthly household expenses, Lisa’s dance class, Daniel’s hockey program. How will we ever make it? I should have seen this coming. I should have made plans. How am I going to tell Elizabeth? We will have to give up all we worked so hard for.
Chris’s mind was quickly moving into deep despair and hopelessness as he drove home. His imagination filled his mind with the most dire of scenarios as he pulled into the driveway. He knew Elizabeth and the children were at his in-law’s home helping prepare for dinner. Although relieved at not having to tell the bad news to his family, Chris was unable to quell his anxiety.
His anxiety penetrated so deep that it started a contraction, which radiated through his entire body. Even being in his own house was not enough to bring him repose. Chris moved around his house like a man in a room with rattlesnakes. For no apparent reason, he picked up his winter boots, sat down and put them on. Next put on his parka, pulled a wool hat over his head, picked up his gloves and walked out of the house. He had no idea where was going. He just walked.
The snow squeaked under his boots. He was moving like a man that was being followed by something threatening. In fact, he was being chased—not by some menacing form, but by his own fear, doubt and anxiety. He turned right, heading toward the state park that abutted his property.
The park was a wetland reserve, interwoven with springs, large standing ponds and walking and biking trails. Chris was very familiar with this park. He and his family had spent many pleasant hours hiking through the park.
Chris entered the park from its west end and immediately descended into a valley. The walking trails had been cleared of snow, making the going fairly easy. Chris paused, looked around and noticed a tree so tall that it stood towering over all the others. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before now. It seemed to be about a mile or so away, and to the south. He turned right and began walking on the trail, which led in the direction of the large tree.
After three-quarters of a mile, the trail took an abrupt turn toward the east, leading away from the tree. If Chris wanted to continue his quest for the tree, he would have to make a quarter mile path of his own, trudging through light snow of about a foot deep. He paused at this juncture, looked at the trail east, then to the tree measuring the effort needed. With watering eyes and smoking breath, he began a high stepping march toward the tree.
Chris finally reached the tree, and with sweating brow and heaving chest began to survey it. His eyes followed the trunk upward to the top most branches. The tree was about 80 or 90 feet high. Its diameter was about eight feet. It was an old Cottonwood. Chris took off his right glove and felt the tree’s thick, craggy bark. Along the north side of the tree, running west to east was a spring fed creek, mostly frozen, save for trickles of running water here and there where the rays of the sun had directly hit.
Chris started to walk around the base of the tree. As he moved toward its back side, Chris noticed a small alcove formed by jetting roots. It seemed the perfect place to sit down. Strange as it may seem, Chris thought that the tree had actually invited him to sit there. So he did.
Chris’s intuition about the tree’s sentience was not a flight of fantasy or imagination. The tree that Chris decided to sit under was a Wisdom Tree. This is not some exotic North American tree, but a tree, that has, over a period of many years, self-initiated itself into wisdom. All trees have the capacity to become a Wisdom Tree, but because of the long effort needed to attain such status, most fall short of the mark.
What is needed to become a Wisdom Tree is an unbending desire to help others; to sacrifice your life, if necessary, for the sake of someone else. This is no small task, and only those of the strongest character can endure the trials and tribulations necessary to gain the highest degree of tree sentience. Chris had the good fortune to be sitting under the most wondrous and extraordinary tree of all, a Wisdom Tree.
Chris sat under the Wisdom tree, legs crossed, gently leaned back his shoulders and head against the tree, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and began to exhale slowly. He opened his eyes and to his complete shock and surprise found that he was standing inside a large cave. There was no light source he could find, but the entire cave was brilliantly lit.
He surveyed the cave until his eyes encountered a most unusual sight. To his right was a man dressed in a white robe, levitating one foot off the cave floor, and completely engulfed in a flame. This tongue of light would change colors, from white to red, to orange, to pink to green, to blue, to purple, to gold, to yellow, and continue to change in what seemed to Chris to be a random sequence. Whenever the flame was red or orange or pink Chris felt intense heat. As the flame changed from red to green, to blue or purple, Chris felt its chilling coolness.
The man in the white robe seemed to be undisturbed by the flame and its color changes. His demeanor never varied. Levitating above the ground completely encircled by a flame or drinking a cup of tea—it was all the same to the man in the white robe.
To Chris’s left, on the floor of the cave, was a mound of the most exquisite uncut gem stones, gold and silver jewelry studded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, heaps of gold and silver coins, goblets, thick bracelets and rings. Chris’s mouth was wide open in awe as his eyes fixated on the mound of splendor.
This was the proverbial king’s ransom. It’s worth would have to be calculated in terms of zillions of dollars. Chris thought, Just one of these gem stones could immediately solve my current problems, and bring economic security to my family for the rest of our lives.
Chris’s fixation on the mound of treasure broke, and his perception expanded to include both the man in the white robe and the treasure mound. Although the man in the white robe’s sphinx-like expression had not changed, he had somehow communicated with Chris. Chris understood that the man in the white robe had given him a clear choice. Chris could either take whatever he desired from the mound of treasure or join the man in the white robe standing in the flame.
Chris understood the mound of treasure was not an illusion and whatever he decided to take from the treasure would in fact be real. Chris thought, This is a no-brainer, and with glee started moving to his left to pack his pockets, then paused. Looking at the man in the white robe Chris began to wonder, What strange and wonderful powers does this man possess? He seems completely content and not at all disturbed about having access to or giving up all that wealth. I wonder if I join him, will I too know contentment?
That flame does not consume the man in the white robe, but I feel its heat and coldness. If I join him will I be consumed in the flame? Chris felt two separate desires operating within him at the same time. One was actually moving him in the direction to join the man in the white robe. The other saying, No, take the treasure. The desire to join the man in the white robe came from a much deeper part of Chris’s mind, and against his own opposition, Chris joined the man in the white robe.
Chris entered the flame and became so stimulated that he thought he wouldn’t be able to stand it. The stimulation was so intense and so exciting that is was like experiencing extreme pain. It was like having every nerve cell in his body pulled out, then being reconnected to a higher voltage. A better analogy might be—jumping into Lake Superior in November.
As the great stimulation waned, Chris became calm. More than this, he became peaceful. He felt great emotional security. He knew he belonged there. It was like coming home from a long voyage. He felt loved, but not in any way that he had previously known. This love was complete, unconditional and penetrated and pervaded every atom of his being.
He not only felt complete love, but began to consciously radiate it back through his heart. His mind was crystal clear, like some kind of thought laser had cut out the superfluous, leaving only that which was most relevant. Chris understood that the loss of his job was not a separate problem; that all things come out of this big, crystal, clear mind, and that he hadn’t lost anything.
He had created his previous job out of his own mind effort, and he could create another job situation. He understood his life, his destiny in the result of his thoughts and actions and if he changed his thoughts and actions he would change his destiny.
Chris felt so peaceful, so contended, so loved that he wanted to stand next to the man in the white robe forever. In an act of conscious surrender to this peace, Chris slowly closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes he found himself back sitting under the Wisdom Tree. The sudden reappearance under the tree startled him a bit, but it was quickly over taken by a wild excitement. It was like Scrooge’s excitement after he realized he wasn’t dead and had time to mend his selfish ways. Chris jumped to his feet, patted the Wisdom Tree’s bark, thanking it loudly several times, and now being relieved of his mental burdens, ran like a wild man home.
Chris burst through the door and left a trail of gloves, hat, boots and coat as he ran into the house. While in the living room he looked at the clock. It showed 6:00 pm. He put his tornadic excitement in neutral as he surprisingly thought, I must have been gone for at least five hours. Realizing he was late for dinner at his in-laws, put himself back into high gear. While speeding to get dressed he heard the beep of the answering machine.
He pressed the button on the machine to hear the message: Chris, this is Jim Windthrop. I found out through Stan that you lost your job today. I want to offer you a job in my company. We are a small business that is in the process of expanding. We need good people to help us grow, and I know you are the kind of person we are looking for. If you are interested phone me after Christmas. My number at work is 989-6242. Merry Christmas!
After hearing the message, Chris was awe struck. It was like someone waved a magic wand and turned all his wishes into reality. He flashed back to the cave and his experience with the man in the white robe. He smiled and thought, Big, crystal, clear mind—could there be any doubt?
Now that he had some time to reflect on his experience with the man in the white robe, Chris recollected that the man in the white robe seemed very familiar. Chris was sure that he knew the man in the white robe, but try as he may was unable to place where it was he had known him. Chris came out of his reflection and once again began to ready himself for the Christmas dinner party. He was anxious to be with his family.
Chris had a wonderful time with his family at the Christmas dinner. In point of fact, it was the best Christmas ever. He told his wife and children of the experiences he had that day. They were all very grateful and happy by the satisfactory outcome. Chris did return Jim Windthrop’s phone call and accepted the job offer and at a substantially higher rate of pay. Could there be any doubt?
Reader, have a wonderful holiday season, and may the light of the new year bring fulfillment to all your aspirations. And reader, who do you think the man in the white robe is….?
Lou DiVirgilio is a writer at work on a novel, Natives of Eternity. He is also a student of Theosophy, studying with the Theosophical Society for 30 years. Visit his blog where he shares spiritual wisdom and guidance.
Editor: Nikki Di Virgilio
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