It was his day at the shelter. He'd been spending his time there, odd days of the week and all, for about three months now. It was a promise that he intended to keep to himself. The promise was to be as generous as he could possibly be, with his time, with his fortune —- provided first of all by his wonderful Mom and Poppa but enhanced ever so much with his work at the manufacturing plant that he owned and where he worked. It was his promise to his lovely Momma and to Poppa and it was one he intended to keep.
There was also the crazy, crazy notion of his name. He was Stephen Nicholas Myra. Early in his life his Dad talked to him about the other Nicholas, that is Nicholas of Myra, with whom he shared his name.
He was enchanted from the start by the story of the wonderful Christian saint, whose name he shared.
It was also from those talks with his Poppa that he learned that St. Nicholas of Myra was the prototype for and the ancestor of the figure 'Santa Claus'.
He was impressed by this, and all that he was able to learn about the Christian saint who was noted for his generosity, his love and his care for the poor and for children, especially for children.
As a matter of fact, he also learned from his Poppa, who was an amateur historian, as well as a manufacturer, that St. Nicholas was the patron saint of children and brewers. This latter fact, made him chuckle.
He grew up with his Poppa calling him 'Santa'. His Mom scoffed at that silliness and rather used his name 'Nick'.
But Nick Myra liked being called 'Santa' by his Pop. It was their private joke.
As he grew and, with a good head start from his Mom and Poppa with what they willed to him, when they passed, prospered, his notion of his name sake was always on his mind.
He became more of a father type of figure for his workers than anything else. And Christmas was his most joyful time of the year.
He gave Christmas bonuses to his workers and always signed the bonus notes: 'From Saint Nicholas'.
Lately he had branched out his acts of charity. He still had some undeveloped plans on his mind and promised himself to work on fleshing out those plans. But in the meantime he began to spend time during the week at a kind of shelter, run by a local Methodist Church, where he was a member, which offered meals to those who needed them and shelter for those who were homeless.
He was noted and liked by one and all at the shelter for his pleasantness, his attitude and his sense of humor.
He worked out his schedule so that he might be on hand to serve meals at the shelter three or four times a week.
It's where he met Julie. It's where he fell for Julie. It's where Julie came into contact with Saint Nicholas.
The badge on his shirt, that he wore, while at the shelter serving, announced to one and all that he was 'Saint Nicholas'. That made people smile and make comments about 'Santa Claus' among them, once it was explained why he had the sign on his shirt.
At this point in his life, Nick Myra was 35 years old. He'd had a number of 'girlfriends' but never found any 'keepers', as he called them. But he never figured on anyone like Julie.
So, today was his serving day at the shelter.
Over a time period, his 'outreach' activities became more important to him. It was certainly all those wonderful conversations with his Poppa about the real 'St Nicholas' but it was as much, or more, Nick's realization that he had been blessed in his life time and that had with it an accompanying feeling that he needed to do more sharing. Taking time to work at the shelter was only one way for him.
MEALS AT THE SHELTER: A PRESENT NECESSITY:
Janie Markham began to bring her little love, Julie, to the shelter for meals, once things really began to close in on them.
She was frequently amazed, when not actually overcome, by the succession of events that had occurred to her and her lovely Julie.
There was Al's leaving and subsequent death, while on a 'ramble', as he tended to call his times away. The realities that came to roost quickly after Al was indeed dead and gone were more and more dark for them.
Al had taken everything and apparently just squandered it on his latest 'ramble'. He was always sure that prosperity was just around the corner in the form of one big financial success. It never happened.
He left Janie and Julie fairly destitute. Then her job faded, simply went away and unemployment only covered a relatively small amount of time. There were no jobs anywhere around that she could find. She'd been, to be sure, a stay at home Mom. Al had wanted it that way but now that decision was paying off in the difficulties that Janie and Julie were having.
It had come to this, this shelter, where they began to come to insure a good meal, while Janie juggled what little funds they had to keep a roof over their heads.
Janie was ruminating, and thinking about what to do next: where to go; to whom should she apply for help or a job. She was being stymied at it.
They'd moved there from a small town a number of states away, because Al had a 'good feeling' about living there.
There were no ties behind them; no family or anyone to turn to. Janie needed to find a way for them, and needed to do that soon. She was at the edge, at times, of despair.
But while Janie was busy worrying, Julie smiled at the tall man, who was helping to serve the food and clean up some tables.
He grinned back at Julie who then waved. He waved back at her. They seemed to make a bond quickly.
Nick had noticed that they were there about three times a week for a meal. The next day was a Thursday and he expected them to drop in then. He wanted to be prepared for the lovely little girl who always waved to him and smiled.
They did come, as he expected. He found himself wondering what their story was, and in the back of his mind the conversations with his Poppa came back to him and he began to think that this might be his opportunity to reach out and share. He was also aware of not wanting to scare them with any of his intentions.
They were there for lunch.
"Hi," he said to the two of them and got an enthusiastic 'hi' from Julie and a softer one from the pretty momma.
"Who's St. Nicholas?" Julie wanted to know.
"That's who I am," he said, "Who are you?"
"I'm Julie and this is my Momma, Janie," the little girl explained.
"Pleased to meet you," Nick said, getting a surprise of a hug around the neck from the little girl, from Julie, and a soft handshake from Janie.
"Do you have time for me to tell you who St. Nicholas was?" he asked.
"Yes, please," Julie said and turned: "Momma?"
"Yes," Janie said, smiling. "We have time."
Nick sat then and told the story about St. Nicholas of Myra and how important and special he was.
"And do you know what we call Nicholas of Myra today?" he asked.
"What?" Julie said, entranced by his story.
"His current name is Santa Claus," he said with a grin.
Julie was excited by this. "Are you Santa Claus?" she asked, wide eyed.
"No," he said, "My name is Nicholas Myra, actually Stephen Nicholas Myra but because of my name they call me around here just St. Nicholas."
Julie laughed and clapped. "That's so nice," she said. "St. Nicholas."
"That's who I am," he said.
He moved away from their table then. His 'shift' was about to end and he had things that he had to do that afternoon. But in the meantime, he had one more thing to do.
"And guess what?" he said to Julie.
"What?" she said, a permanent grin on her face.
"St. Nicholas has something for you," he said.
"Really?" she almost squeaked.
He pulled from his pocked at a pink animal kind of figure. When it was shaken, it glowed with an inner light and made a bell sound. He put it on the table in front of Julie, who took it and looked at him: "For me?"
"For you, from St. Nicholas!" he said.
She demanded another hug and he gladly gave her that. Then he moved away. He tried to be sensitive to not taking up too much of their time.
Julie demanded another hug from him, at the door. Only this time, he got a hug from Janie also.
She spoke to him softly, as they hugged.
"Thank you," she said, "You've given her a happy day. I appreciate that. Thank you, St. Nicholas!"
She slightly kissed his cheek then and they were gone.
It swept through Nick's mind many, many times over the next two days. He was anticipating that they'd maybe be there again and he wanted to have a plan in mind.
Nick had a creative mind, that always served him well in his manufacturing world, but he was drawing a blank, when it came to what to do for or about Julie and Janie.
It did shake up his mind just a bit to realize that he'd said 'about' and not only 'for' the two of them. That alone awoke possibilities for him.
That night, the night of the day, when he'd given Julie the pink rattle animal, he made a phone call to his sister, Ruthie.
"Hey," Ruthie said. "Hows the mogul?"
"Fine, love," he said.
But she, who knew him well, put in then: "On, no; something's up. You'd better tell me about it."
"You're so wise," he said.
"Well, I know at least when you have an issue; so, let's talk," she said next.
They did indeed hash the situation out and Ruthie was pleased to find that Nick was attracted to the lady and the lovely daughter.
"What do I do?" he asked, finally, almost in a panic.
"What do you have in mind?" Ruthie asked first.
.... There is more of this story ...