She was 20, this young mother of two, and it had been a tough year. It was the mid-1960s, and she had married right out of high school. It hadn’t worked out, really, but she had this beautiful toddler boy with huge brown eyes and very dark hair, and more recently a daughter had been born, who was the spitting image of her brother. They were more beautiful than the always admired Gerber baby, and people often told her so.

She didn’t know much about parenting, and was mostly alone in that endeavor, but she loved them fiercely, and wanted them to have a safe and happy life. With everything she could muster, she tried to bring some joy into their otherwise bare existence. Sometimes that was easy — read a favorite book or make some cookies. Sometimes they went for walks or sang songs. The children didn’t seem to notice that they lacked anything.

They were working on getting central heat and running water, but for now it took carrying water from a nearby stream, and heating with a small wood stove. That was a lot of work, and sometimes difficult to do with small children, but they did everything together in those days.

And then there was Christmas.

Throughout the year, this mother created her gifts for the upcoming holiday. She knit just a few pairs of mittens with yarn someone gave her. She made aprons and doll clothes from donated fabric. She made cookies and fudge closer to the holidays. If she had enough flour, she would make a special Christmas bread to give as gifts; and there was always strawberry jam, which sparkled under the leftover yarn she tied around each jar.

One Christmas Eve, she set out to deliver her homemade gifts to friends and family, with the toddler and new baby. She waited until dusk, so the toddler could see all the Christmas lights. Slowly, they drove past each adorned home, where the boy would exclaim, “Momma, LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!”

The baby girl slept quietly, and they had finished the last visit with a relative who lived on a remote road. Beautiful huge snowflakes began to fall. The night was extremely cold, but had a brilliant moon, and a myriad of stars. It was worthy of a Christmas card. Upon seeing the snow, the toddler exclaimed, LOOK! LOOK!” as he excitedly watched it fall.

They pulled out of the driveway and started down the road toward civilization. A few miles later, the car just suddenly stopped. Again and again, she tried to start it, without success. Each time, thinking she had just flooded it, but to no avail.

By now it was dark. The sky was a blue/black with glittering stars. They were on a rarely traveled road, with no houses or lights in sight; and no cell phone in those days.

After a time, they began to get cold. She wrapped the baby in all the blankets, took off her coat and wrapped it around the toddler. Then, she held them both in her lap to keep herself warm, and began to sing Christmas songs to them softly, trying to figure out what to do.

She couldn’t walk and carry them both, and she couldn’t leave them; she would never be able to make it the 3 or 4 miles in what now looked like a blizzard, anyway.

After nearly an hour had passed, she saw lights coming toward her. The lights began to slow down, and stopped right in front of her. A bearded man stepped out of his truck and came up to her door. “Something the matter, Ma’am”? he asked. Through chattering teeth, she told him the story.

He invited her and the children into his truck, which was warm, and gave her a wool jacket to put on while he checked on the situation. Diagnosis: A frozen gas line. He drove them to his house to get some gasline deicer, waited nearly an hour with them, and made sure the car would stay running.

She had no money to offer him, but offered her gratitude. He asked for nothing.

“I hope you have a Merry Christmas,” he said, as he drove out of sight.

It is difficult to imagine that happening today, such blind trust and innocence; but it seemed a very different time.

Then as now, the best gift of all is kindness.