The Christmas Deer
By: Brad Cole

It was about a week before Christmas and I was looking out my classroom window after all the students had left for the day. Feeling tired I turned around and began picking paperwork off the tables. Suddenly a large flurry of snow began falling; I could see it swirling in the thick willows just outside my window. Then a cluster of small white birds flew into the twisted, snow-filled branches and they were seen playing, tumbling about the trees like children having fun.

I stopped picking up the papers and watched the birds for awhile. Seeing the snow deeply piling up, I began to wonder about the coming winter months, about how the cold darkness of every winter holds a challenge for us. As a teacher I see the kids struggling to grow up and learning to find a well centered, deliberate way of living. Hopefully, their labors will bring them to a truthful and loving life. Listening is such an important part of this soulful search. Listen carefully to the wind in the willows and one can hear the story of your life, I thought fancifully, while still holding a pile of papers.

The large flakes of snow continued to fall and swirl and my eyes were captivated by watching them tumble through the cold sky and dance about the dark willows. The small birds seemed to be enjoying it too. It brought back memories of a story my grandma told me when I was young. It was about a time when she was a child and a heavy snow fell on her family’s farm in North Dakota only about a week before Christmas. The family was low on food, but then one of the children saw a deer which was exhausted, struggling in the deep snow. It was in a field nearby looking like it could no longer walk. When the child told his father, the man picked up an old hunting rifle, walked out into the windy field and shot it. For Christmas day the family invited friends and relatives to their small white farmhouse for the biggest and best feast grandma remembered having in those days. She especially remembered a feeling of thankfulness that all the people seemed to share. I could see it in her eyes that she would never forget the good fortune brought by what we later called the, “Christmas Deer”.

Still feeling tired at the end of the day I sat down for a minute. Watching the steady snow falling outdoors, I wondered how much good I was doing, trying to teach the important lessons in life, like having a strong heart that was willing to sacrifice for love and family, and the feeling of thankfulness that should come from this. Perhaps, before her death, grandma wondered if the young would ever learn to be thankful for the way God gives so much through nature, serving to enrich our lives. Like Christmas, our relationship with nature should build in us a strong moral bearing, I thought. It should help us find the Christmas deer in each and every one of us, feeding and strengthening our spirits and that of our families and communities.

The birds were soon gone and only snow filled the branching willows. I finished picking up student papers, put my coat on to leave the classroom and walked out the door, turning out the light. I felt so drained from a day of teaching and as I started for my house a cold wind seemed to cling to my face. Once again, I only wanted to go home to eat, rest and sleep for the night. Perhaps, later a dream will come to me, I wondered, a dream of small white birds flying playfully in a snowy wind. The wind would have the sound that only a lost wore out soul could make, one wandering the willows in search of Christmas.