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Cactus and kindness

Pique Christmas Stories

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The tradition of story telling is stronger at Christmas time than almost any other time of the year. Whether stories are read aloud to family and friends, or alone by the fire with a hot cup of cocoa, it’s an activity all cherish during the holidays. In the spirit of sharing, enjoy these stories written by Pique writers for you.

Happy holidays

from all of us to all of you.

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Cactus and kindness

By Cathryn Atkinson



For three wonderful children who I hope will have the best Christmas ever — and for all other children, too. Love, Mom and Auntie Cathryn.

Everyone was in the kitchen. Mom was overseeing the icing of the gingerbread and trying to explain something important to the children.

She dropped the final red daubs of icing around the edges of one large, bell-shaped cookie, then passed it along the icing assembly line to her left. "Kindness is not something you save up like the pennies in your piggybank. It's something that is meant to be spent over and over, and the best part is you never run out," she told them.

"What do you mean, Mommy?" asked Heather, aged seven, while licking some of her green icing from a spoon.

The four of them had spent the last hour or so in the kitchen; Heather, her older sister Carrie and their cousin Liam had helped stir the brown dough, and they each had several turns pressing the cookie cutter into it and pulling away any pieces that were not inside the cutter's bell-shape edges. The amount of unassigned dough shrank and shrank until all of it had finally been used up.

But as they pressed out the cookies the children learned, to their disappointment, that these treats were not meant for them. They were a gift.

They were meant for Mrs. Humphries, who had just come out of hospital. Mrs. Humphries' husband had died years before and she was alone. Her neighbours were keeping an eye out for her. She'd been in her home for over 50 years; her stay in hospital, the result of a fall, had shaken the 85-year-old lady and she was extremely fragile.

Liam, who was a teenager and who could have happily eaten everything on the counter in front of him on his own in under five minutes, accepted the bad news surprisingly cheerfully, while Carrie added her thoughts.

"It's two weeks until Christmas, and if we do this now we'll get more stuff on Christmas morning for being so good," she said.

"The grown-ups call that karma," Liam added, knowingly.

Carrie's mother decided to elevate the conversation a bit:

"Not all of them. It's more like this: 'Let the beauty we love be what we do, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.'"

The children fell silent.

"What on earth does that mean?" asked Carrie.

"Those are the words of a very wise poet," Mom said.

"But it doesn't rhyme," complained Carrie, who loved reading better than almost anything.

"Poems don't always need to rhyme," said Liam, who knew this from experience.

"It means that to do good and be kind to others connects us to what is good and kind in the world. It is a reward in itself and you don't need to be given stuff for doing the right and generous thing," Mom said.

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