The Christmas Gift

by Carol Rainville
El Cajon, California, USA

The Christmas Gift

I was working at the toy counter of a dime store in Orlando, Florida. I was 15, and the year was 1952. I had to fib about my age to get a job, and I barely supported myself on the $25/week salary. But this was the South, and times were tight for everybody.

It was a few days after Christmas, and we had a lot of dolls left unsold on the canopy-like overhead of the toy counter, as well as many more dolls in a storage closet. The store wanted me to stand on a box in front of the counter and sell the dolls at 75% off. My young voice trying to attract the passing shoppers to our sale didn’t seem to get anyone’s attention. Shoppers continued to walk by, ignoring me.

Suddenly, a small girl holding her mother’s hand walked by, and I impulsively handed her a doll. Her mother stopped to find out why her daughter had this doll, and I explained our wonderful sale. The girl had stars in her eyes and a baby doll in her arms, and nothing was going to make her give this doll back. I had made my first sale.

I continued, handing anyone walking by, both young and old, a doll, and soon I had the two cashiers behind the counter rushing to ring up all the sales. Soon we had sold all the dolls from the overhead display and were bringing more dolls from the storage closet. I was feeling very proud and confident at the success of my assignment.

Then I handed a doll to a small, shabbily dressed colored girl. (That’s what we called Black people back then). Her eyes lit up. I explained to her mother about the wonderful sale. Sadly, her mother took the doll away from the little girl and handed it back to me. Tears filled the little girl’s eyes as her mother explained that there was no money to buy this doll. I reminded her that this was a really good buy, but the mother just shook her head and said to her daughter, “I told you Santa couldn’t afford to get you anything this year,” and began to walk away.

Just then, a well-dressed, middle-aged white woman wearing a fur coat said, “Wait — let me buy this doll for your little girl.” She took the doll from my hands and handed it back to the little girl. It happened so fast I never got a chance to thank her for what she did, both for me and the little girl. I know I’ve never forgotten the moment I was saved from hurting a little girl, and I’m sure that girl, now a grown woman, has never forgotten her wonderful doll, either.

Who said there’s no Santa Claus?

Originally published as HeroicStories #19 on June 15, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

6 thoughts on “The Christmas Gift”

  1. This (like many, if not all, of the other heroic stories have) brought tears to my eyes at the end. Then I thought about how similar today (2014) is for many families. While there may be more opportunities for children to get gifts from Santa or others (a la “Shop with a Cop”, Toys for Tots, etc.), someone anonymously stepping up, so to speak, and bringing joy to strangers carries a much more powerful sense of love. [Or, maybe I’m just jaded from having lived in areas where the gifts the children were able to choose – often as gifts for their brothers/sisters/parents/grandparent – were reportedly sold by a family member for drug money.] My thanks to Carol for sharing her story about an angel that touched strangers.

  2. Just like the person in the story who gave a total stranger a toy as a gift, motorcyclist across the country join together at this time of the year to help the less fortunate. If you go to any of the sites that list Motorcycle Events ( or or any other motorcycle event sites), you will see Events listed as Toy Runs. The Entry Fee for these runs is an Unwrapped Toy that the sponsoring club donates to local churches and other charities to help make Christmas special for those less fortunate. I have been riding motorcycles since the mid-1970’s and have had the privilege of participating in many toy runs in many different parts of the country. One thing they all have in common is the smiles on the kids faces when we give out the gifts.

  3. This is what I think Christmas is about, giving or doing for others to spread joy and happiness, if you feel good also, that’s a bonus!

  4. This is not intended to be negative, but as touching as this story is, it strikes me as an anachronism. Today someone might well hesitate to do such a thing, when the charge of racism seems to be applied even to acts of intended kindness. We need to think only of what it meant to that little child, and do it anyway. Jesus commanded it.

  5. Ah! What a feel good story at Christmas, especially when we know, that in a few days time, some fortunate children will have piles of gifts under the tree or in their Christmas stockings, soon to be added to all the other piles of toys they already possess, either to get broken or abandoned. Coming originally from Africa, I know what it means to have seen many ragged, impoverished children who would never have been given a Christmas present, and would settle for whatever they could find to play with. The take-away lesson from this story for me is keep your eyes and ears open; you may just find someone who will be grateful for what you can give them at Christmas.


Leave a Comment