The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn'tbeen anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was justanother day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find areason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that hadbeen falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all aboutwhen the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by hiscustomers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up."Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I seeyou're busy, I'll just go.""Not without something hot in your belly." George said.He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to thestranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew ... Made itmyself. When you're done, there's coffee and it's fresh."Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuseme, be right back," George said. There in the driveway was an old '53Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front.. The driver was panicked."Mister can you help me!" said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent."My wife is with child and my car is broken." George opened the hood.It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead."You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away."But Mister, please help ..." The door of the office closed behindGeorge as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keysto his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around thebuilding, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around towhere the couple was waiting. "Here, take my truck," he said. "Sheain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped offinto the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. "Glad Igave 'em the truck, their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck hasbrand new ." George thought he was talking to the stranger, but theman had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffeecup beside it. "Well, at least he got something in his belly," Georgethought.George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. Itcranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where thetruck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something todo. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the the blockhadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. "Well,shoot, I can fix this," he said to himself. So he put a new one on."Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." He tookthe snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new andhe wasn't going to drive the car anyway.As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside andbeside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding fromthe left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Please help me."George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he hadreceived in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention."Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The uniform company hadbeen there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used thoseand duct tape to bind the wound. "Hey, they say duct tape can fixanythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease."Something for pain," George thought. All he had was the pills he usedfor his back. "These ought to work." He put some water in a cup andgave the policeman the pills. "You hang in there, I'm going to get youan ambulance."The phone was dead. "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that theretalk box out in your car." He went out only to find that a bullet hadgone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. "Thanks," said theofficer. "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is stillin the area."George sat down beside him, "I would never leave an injured man in theArmy and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the bandage tocheck for bleeding. "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed rightthrough 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I thinkwith time your gonna be right as rain."George got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked."None for me," said the officer.."Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain't got nodonuts." The officer laughed and winced at the same time.The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with agun. "Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. Hishand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anythinglike this before."That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer."Son, why are you doing this?" asked George, "You need to put thecannon away. Somebody else might get hurt."The young man was confused. "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too.Now give me the cash!"The cop was reaching for his gun. "Put that thing away," George saidto the cop, "we got one too many in here now."He turned his attention to the young man. "Son, it's Christmas Eve. Ifyou need money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Nowput that pea shooter away."George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man,reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young manreleased his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. "I'mnot very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for mywife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job, my rent is due, my cargot repossessed last week."George handed the gun to the cop. "Son, we all get in a bit of squeezenow and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through thebest we can."He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair acrossfrom the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things." George handed the youngman a cup of coffee. "Bein' stupid is one of the things that makes ushuman. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there andget warm and we'll sort this thing out."The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry Ishot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer.""Shut up and drink your coffee " the cop said.George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and anambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, gunsdrawn. "Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer."Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?""GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?"the other cop asked as he approached the young man.Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Justdropped his gun and ran."George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other."That guy work here?" the wounded cop continued."Yep," George said, "just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The youngman leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas boy ... and you too, George, andthanks for everything.""Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought tosolve some of your problems."George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled outa ring box. "Here you go, something for the little woman. I don'tthink Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he eversaw. "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something toyou.""And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got mymemories. That's all I need."George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truckappeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him tosell. "Here's something for that little man of yours."The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that theold man had handed him earlier."And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep thattoo," George said. "Now git home to your family."The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be herein the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.""Nope. I'm closed Christmas day," George said. "See ya the day after."George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'dyou come from? I thought you left?""I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "Yousay you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?""Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn't see what all thebother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pinetree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the sameby myself and besides I was gettin' a little chubby."The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. "But you do celebratethe holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when Iwas cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he willbecome a great doctor.The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from beingkilled by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make youa rich man and not take any for himself. "That is the spirit of theseason and you keep it as good as any man."George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. "And how do youknow all this?" asked the old man."Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. Andwhen your days are done you will be with Martha again."The stranger moved toward the door. "If you will excuse me, George, Ihave to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebrationplanned."George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that thestranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began tofill the room."You see, George ... it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."