Friday, October 24, 2014

A Christmas Story, Chapter 3, Robbed

The following is Chapter 3 of A Christmas Story by Mike Furches.  You can see the preceding prologue and Chapters in the archives or links section of this page. This story is copyrighted by Mike Furches and intent to publish in book form in 2015.  This is the variation prior to final edit prior to publication.

From A Christmas Story
By Mike Furches
Chapter 3
            Christmas morning came quickly for the Hamm’s. Tayra was correct in her assumption, it was close to 8:30 before Sammy and Brenda woke up. Kari was doing great and sleeping  through the night, usually from around 9 PM in the evening until 8 AM. It was closer to 10:30 PM on Christmas Eve before she went to sleep meaning that it would likely be as late as 9:30 or 10 before waking if her parents didn't wake her.
Charlie’s intended the family walk into the family room together to see what was under the tree. Tayra and Charlie always did this as a family tradition. The presents the children received were put out the night before, especially the large presents difficult to disguise. Everyone except Kari was excited standing outside the doors of the family room. They were jovial because they knew they were getting to celebrate the birth of Christ but they also recognized and enjoyed the tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts.
"Everyone ready to go in and see what Santa has left us?" Charlie asked with excitement.
"Yea." Everyone responded with enthusiasm.
"All right lets do it." Charlie answered opening the door.
The look of joy and excitement ended abruptly for Charlie and Tayra. Inside the family room was a turned over Christmas tree and no presents. Brenda and Sammy would have thought it a practical joke had it not been for the surprised look on their parents faces. They also noticed the muddy foot prints throughout the living room going from the tree to the open window facing the street. Not only where there no presents under the tree, when Charlie and Tayra looked outside they also noticed that the motorcycle was gone.
Little Kari started crying as her mother had started. Tayra realized what had happened and that their Christmas was not going to be so good. It wasn’t that Tayra was upset about not getting anything, she realized the children wouldn't have any presents for Christmas. Everything was gone and there was no way they could replace it. They Hamm's had little money left and the presents purchased were purchased throughout the year. While some had theft insurance their policy only covered disaster. Charlie and Tayra removed the theft clause to save money. After all, they lived in a good neighborhood and didn't worry about things like this. It seemed to Charlie as if time was standing still during the time the family stood in the door way. No sounds were made with the exception of Tayra and Kari who were both crying. Charlie put his arm around his wife and told Sammy, "Son get me the telephone."
"Here Dad." Sammy said after getting the phone. Charlie dialed 911.
"911, what is your emergency?" The dispatcher said.
Charlie responded in a monotone tone, indicating signs of shock, "Can you send someone here right away. We’ve been robbed."
            The Hamm’s felt lucky because they knew Detective Hay who was a member of their church. Detective Hay was a slender man standing six feet tall. His salt and pepper hair gave him a measure of dignity and respect. He was a gentle man, yet, firm with the law. Detective Hay was in his mid fifties and had made the police force a life long career. He was a policeman who sincerely cared about serving the public and helping out people in need.
When holiday duty came up he was the first to volunteer because he realized that many of his fellow officers were younger and would appreciate the time with their families. It was hard enough being a police officer without taking time away from ones family.
When getting the call Detective Hay thought the address sounded familiar but he didn't put it together until he got to within a block of the Hamm’s. He never made many calls to the neighborhood due to the lack of crime but he had visited it on occasion for Bible studies and small group activities through the church.
Detective Hay always tried to serve the victims of crime. He had some challenges since joining the Mennonite Church. He questioned how he could love someone he may have to shoot while on duty and what it meant to ultimately love someone. Historically the Mennonites where people who refused to take up arms, often times during war serving as conscientious objectors. He struggled with the issue and was able to resolve it by requesting to be put on robbery investigation duty or other jobs within the force that had it less likely to draw his weapon. Since he had been with the force for close to 30 years his request was honored. It was also the little things of helping his fellow officers which made the decision to serve in this capacity possible. It was tough to accept among some of the officers and even some in his extended family at first, there was concern about if he would be able to pull his weapon and protect others, including his fellow officers if the need ever arose. He had shown his willingness with conviction and firmness on one occasion shortly after asking for special privileges and it gave assurance to his fellow officers that he could be trusted. It was still difficult for him to carry a gun but he knew the chances of using it may be required but those chances were minimal. Even in situations where warrants were served the department had the general rank and file serving most of the warrants. While there were times Officer Hay had some difficulty with his job, he took his job seriously and the obligation to protect human life while seeking justice was clearly illustrated in his work.
While Detective Hay had made serious changes and requests due to his religious beliefs, he didn't pressure others to hold to those beliefs. In private and respectful conversations he was clear as to his position that Jesus Christ was God’s Son and the only means of salvation. He  realized long ago that the Holy Spirit was the one, sometimes with the help of people, who put people under conviction about changing their need of God.
Detective Hay felt close to the Hamm’s. He saw the family at church and had been involved with them in numerous church activities. He always felt you could tell a lot about a family by the children in that family. Being involved with the police force for as long as he had been helped educate him to the importance of the family raising children appropriately and involving them in church. He realized that many of the problems he had encountered through his years on the force was primarily from individuals had a lack of positive parental influence. Many of those families were single parent homes where the parent raising the children worked and left the children at home much of the time to fend for themselves. This was not always the case but it would surprise most at the magnitude of the problem. On occasion Detective Hamm watched television shows, hear messages or participate in community discussions addressing this problem. It was often done without a true understanding of what was happening in society. It was obvious to him that if people truly understood the magnitude of the problem there would be more efforts to address the lack of parental influence in society as opposed to coming up with numerous excuses that allowed the problem to continue and in many ways, even get worse.
Detective Hay investigated the scene for close to an hour, speaking primarily with Charlie and Tayra. They were reluctant to involve the children to much because Detective Hamm, Charlie, Tayra and the other police officer at the scene knew how difficult it would be for the children to hear about everything they would have gotten for Christmas. There were several times that both Charlie and Tayra cried when describing what was stolen. It brought out the reality that as far as the knew, this Christmas, their children would have nothing.
There were times Detective Hay and Officer Likens involved the children because the children had purchased gifts for the family from earnings from chores around the house and part time jobs. As Charlie listened in to when his children were questioned he was proud of how Sammy and Brenda handled themselves. They were dealing with the situation much better than he or Tayra. Charlie also felt peace come over him as the investigation concluded because he realized his children had learned the true meaning of Christmas. To them, this was the observation of Jesus Birth and that was more important to them than the gifts they would have received. It is not as if the children didn’t hurt about their presents being stolen, they did but Charlie also realized that God had blessed his and Tayra’s efforts at  raising their children.
"Where do we go from here?" Charlie asked Detective Hay as he and Officer Likens started to leave.
"It’s hard to say Charlie. Usually we start checking around to see if anyone is trying to pawn the stuff or sell it in some way like at Craigslist or eBay. That takes some time. We have a huge back load and often times the stuff has been sold by the time we can get an officer out. I do believe that in this case though, with it happening at Christmas, that we have a good chance of finding out who stole the stuff. I know I'll make it a point to speed up the investigation right away. I also know that most of the force have families of their own and will be thinking about if this had happened to them. Most of them are really good and I see them taking this case personally." Detective Hay responded, showing concern, yet being honest and sincere.
"Is there a chance that we’ll get any of the gifts back?" Brenda asked. Charlie started to say something because he felt the question might not be appropriate but he realized that for his children the answer might be important.
Detective Hay responded while looking at Charlie and then turning his response towards the children. " I think we’ll probably get some of them back but it’s hard to say. That’s why I won’t make any promises other than we'll do our best." Detective Hay turning towards Charlie continued, "I will say this though. I am confident that whoever stole the gifts from you will be caught and be held accountable."
"Thanks Bob" Charlie said as Detective Hay left.
Detective Hay, knew this was the first time since arriving that Charlie used his first name understood that Charlie had confidence in him and appreciated  his handling of the investigation. This was why he had joined the force, to help people in their time of need. In a strange sort of way he was glad he could help someone from his church. He knew he could make help someone he cared about and who was a part of his spiritual family. He would hope to never have to help in this capacity but he knew the world was not a perfect place. He responded to the Hamm’s as he left. "You’re welcome and I promise I'll do my best. I’m also going to pray for you and if there is anything me or my family can do to help please let us know and we’ll be right here."
"Thanks." Tayra said, not wanting to say more because she might start crying again and realizing that Charlie was already to choked up to say anything else.
As the left, Officer Likens didn't say anything, but thought "If only other Christians cared the way these seems to." He was going through his own issues related to faith and it was good for him to see examples like had just seen.
It was surprising at how quickly the afternoon arrived at the Hamm’s house. The first guest started arriving around 1:30 PM on Christmas Day. The first where the Loewens. They where a family which had been involved at the church for over 50 years. Jack and Zelma where Mennonites who had been raised in the Mennonite Church. Jack’s great grandfather and Zelma’s great grandmother arrived in America at the turn of the century as immigrants from Prussia. The Hamm's where surprised at the amount of food the Loewens had brought with them.
It didn't take long before the Hamm’s realized that Detective Bob Hay had called the church to inform the prayer line about what had happened. After getting in touch with Pastor Steve it wasn't long before many of the church members on the phone making calls requesting prayer and support for the Hamm’s. This was one of the aspects of the Mennonite Church that had drawn Charlie into the church. The concern and love the people showed each other,  especially in times of need. It was unparalleled to any church Charlie had ever been a part of or visited.
By the end of the afternoon the Hamm’s had more than 10 families visit their home bringing gifts of food and presents for the children. Many of the items which had been described to Detective Hay was told to the pastors of the church, who in return, shared the information with the members of the congregation. Detective Hay even came by with his family and had his oldest son who had gone to college follow him on a motorcycle that had belonged to him to give to Sammy. The Hamm’s where amazed at the number of gifts they received. Almost all of the gifts had been replaced. It was upon seeing the motorcycle that Detective Hay's son gave that Charlie broke down in tears, again.
Charlie appreciated the gifts but he was confident that neither he or his family deserved this outpouring of love. "Bob, you didn’t need to do this. I mean a motorcycle is really too much to give," as Bob presented Sammy the keys.
"I don’t want to hear it Charlie. Dave and I spoke about it and the fact that he is in college now and never drives the thing anymore made it an easy decision. Dave decided that he was going to buy a new motorcycle this summer anyway and that he wanted to see his old bike go to someone who would appreciate it."
"That’s right Mister Hamm" Dave responded. "Besides, isn’t that a lot of what Christmas is about? Dad always taught us that the ultimate gift that first Christmas was something we didn’t deserve but God gave it to us anyway. Just let this old yellow motorcycle be a reminder of what God gave us in His Son, a sacrifice but a sacrifice given out of love."
Dave was a tall young man, standing over six feet three inches, he weighed close to 220 pounds and had always been active. His long, shoulder length, black hair blowing in the cool wind have convinced a passerby that he was a Native American from behind but he wasn't as far as anyone in the family knew. "Well thanks and I know Sammy really appreciates it." Charlie responded with tears starting to form.
"Yea, really thanks." Sammy responded doing everything he could to keep from shouting with joy about the most excellent gift. Sammy knew the bike wasn't new but that didn’t matter. The motorcycle as far as he was concerned was just broken in. The speedometer had less than 10,000 miles and the Yamaha Enduro with a 250cc engine was the perfect gift, both ready to play in the dirt and drive on the streets. This, was as far as Sammy was concerned, better than any bike his parents could have bought him for the simple reason that it allowed him to enjoy the best of both worlds. He could use it to drive to school and run errands because it was street legal but it was also made so that he could ride on many of the trails around the Arkansas River and many of the lakes around the area. Lake Skiatook not only was a large lake with lots of trails but there were many hills he could ride on and enjoy. Sammy overheard his father tell Detective Hay about the motorcycle which was stolen. It was a street bike and would not have been one he could play on like the one just given him. Sammy gladly accepted the keys with the understanding that if the other motorcycle was recovered then he would have to give this one to someone in need of transportation or in need of a blessing. With this in mind, Sammy gladly accepted the motorcycle.
Before long the evening was upon them and it was almost time for the family devotions which was a regular event in the Hamm’s household before bed. That evening was an example to the family of how God continually provides for His children. God seemed to always provide the needs and often times offered the wants as blessings. There was the obvious example of the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son but there were many other examples on this Christmas Day. God used the Church and its people as messengers of love. Kari received many gifts, much more than what was originally under the tree. Brenda got her stereo and Sammy his motorcycle. Neither of the later two where new but they where both gifts the children would enjoy because of the way they received them but they where also bigger and in some ways nicer, although older than what Charlie and Tayra had gotten them.
For Charlie and Tayra they received the gift and reminder of a new expanded family. Many in the church who came by with food and gifts where members they had not known so well in the past. Yet now Charlie understood even more of his own need to be around and help when need be these who went out of their way to show love for the Hamm's. God blessed the Hamm’s this Christmas season despite what they had experienced earlier in the day. Charlie especially realized, "While one may not have awareness of what to expect through the day, if given opportunity, despite the storm clouds that may present themselves early in the day, given time, God can still make rainbows despite the storms in life."
As the days went by many more from the church brought gifts and food for the family. This continued until the middle of January. It was a Christmas season the Hamm's would look back on and for years, remembering the Christmas that almost wasn’t. As they discovered though the meaning of this Christmas had not really sunk in due to the fact that God still had something important to show them, the members of Discovery Bible Fellowship and others Charlie did not yet.

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