Harry's Remorse

James L. Cowles


© Copyright 2021 by James L. Cowles


Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash
Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

     Snow flurries were flying and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Christmas eve had finally come to the little Kentucky township of Lyndon.  Harry had just turned sixteen last summer and was thinking about girls and cars and not much else.  Those who knew him, knew he was always thinking, "what's in it for me." but now, as Christmas approached, he had become even more self-centered.  Yes, as usual, he was thinking more about what he might get for Christmas than what he might give.  Harry was not a giver.  Oh, he was soft-hearted, at least, somewhat, but when it came to family, he seemed to always have great expectations. To his thinking, his mom and dad had brought him into this world and they owed him.  It was their job to make sure he had everything he ever needed or wanted and as far as his sister and brothers were concerned, they could fend for themselves.    

     In his sixteen years, Harry had never thought of buying a Christmas gift for his mother and father, much less his siblings and as usual, he was dropping hints about what he expected for Christmas to anyone who would listen.  What does most every sixteen-year-old want for Christmas?  Why, a car of course.  Four wheels, something he could work on, something that would be his and his alone.  He could do whatever he wanted with it.  Maybe he'd put a new engine in it, or deck it out with the best audio system going (he could get the old man to fork over bucks for whatever it needed).  He loved loud music and he wanted to hear it the right way, so, it was no surprise to anyone when Harry hinted that he wanted a car.  It didn't have to be new.  No, it could be an older model (he had told his mother it could be a year or two old, and his expectations were soaring. it was Christmas and he deserved a nice gift.

     Harry had never worked a day in his life.  He bragged, "when I need money, I just hit the old man up for a few bucks."”  His mother was no doubt an even softer touch.  He could slip into his little child voice and that worked more often than not.  She couldn't resist him.   "He is a good boy,"”she would say.  "Yes, he has a few short comings, but he will grow out of them."

     It happened that Christmas Eve.  Harry was home, while his mother, father, two brothers and little sister had gone shopping for last minute gifts.  Harry thought it was ridiculous for the family to load-up and go out into the madness that was Christmas Eve.  He could hear them as they pulled out of the drive, all singing, “I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, and his father was off-key as usual.  “That's childish stuff,”he thought, as he rummaged through drawers looking for receipts from gifts his mother and father had purchased for him.  Surely he would find a receipt from a local car dealership, or something to show they had purchased that car he wanted, almost demanded.  "If they haven't bought me a car, I'm gonna be hell on wheels to live with,"  he thought.  Then it happened.  He was upstairs when the doorbell rang and when he looked outside, he saw flashing blue lights coming from a police cruiser in the driveway. 

     A chill ran up Harry's spine; he didn't know what to do.  Should he answer the door?  If his mom or dad had been there, they would answer, but they weren't, so he decided to pretend no one was home.  He hadn't done anything wrong, in fact, he rarely drove the family car and he knew he hadn't gotten any tickets. “What could he have done the police would know about?” he wondered.  “ "Man, I ain't gonna talk to nobody, 'cause I ain't done nothin' that would bring them out here."  As usual, Harry thought it was about him.  If it was good, he had caused it; if it was bad, hey, someone else was to blame.  But this time it wasn't about Harry and as he sat huddling by his bed upstairs, he heard a loud voice say, "We know you're in there son.  Your mom told us you were home.  Come to the door; we have some news for you, son.  Now he recognized the voice; it was Police Chief Gaines.

     "Oh, it's my new car," Harry thought. "Aha!  They went out to buy me a car and the chief helped them get it home." That was it, he thought, as he bounded down the steps and opened the door.  The chief had a_shockingly serious look on his face and said, "Harry, get your coat and we'll take you to the hospital.  Everyone is going to be okay, but your family was in a pretty serious accident tonight son and your mother asked us to come get you."”

     Harry learned a valuable lesson that evening.  Family is more important than any Christmas gift could be, no matter the value. Family is the true gift.   The simple but important lesson about life is learning to be selfless, not selfish.  Harry cried a lot that night, but also said a prayer of thanks that his family would recover from their injuries.  He didn't realize how much he loved them; too bad it took something so terrible for him to learn selflessness.

     When you are looking for true love and kindness your family will be there to provide it.  Oh, and yes, Harry's mom & dad did buy him a car.  It was 16 years old, but he didn't complain.  He even got a job after school and told his dad he wanted to reimburse him. His dad said "No, son, it's our gift. All I ask is of you is that you maintain it and buy your own gas."

     Harry also asked the principal at his school if he could speak to his fellow students during the next assembly. The principal agreed. He was so nervous and he cried that day as he told his classmates his story.  He said he wanted to thank everyone for their concern and kindness especially when everyone in his family was in the hospital, and he apologized to them for being "so self-centered."  To his very pleasant surprise, it was the first of many times he would hear his classmates cheer him.  Harry experienced a very Merry Christmas that year, perhaps the best of his life and he learned how to make real friends. More importantly, he learned to think of others in his daily life.  There would be no more remorse for Harry.

This grew out of the letters I wrote for my six grandkids at Christmas over the years. All are grown, now. I tried to always think of an important message for them. I think they looked forward to my annual letter, but who knows? There was always a gift with it and kids will be kids.

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