A ray of sunlight stirred Grant from the depths of sleep, as twelve distinct bells rang joyously, the air filled with the echoes of carolers spreading cheer. He opened his eyes with trepidation, feeling hypnagogic, aroused from the strange realm between dreams and reality.
He sat up, shocked to find himself back in the penthouse. The fireplace roaring, crackling with a new light. The mantle adorned with fresh evergreen and red ribbon and holly.
“It cannot be.” Grant in a state of confusion. “I must be dreaming…last night I stood at Saint Jude’s no more than a pauper, sharing in the feast of Epiphany and today…I rise to find myself back in my former life – and yet changed in spirit.”
He searched the penthouse, desperate to fathom his circumstances. He put his hand to the fire, feeling the scalding heat, the burning sensation singing his index finger, Grant knew this wasn’t a dream. After twelve days of journeying as a pauper, he found himself miraculously restored to his former estate.
Overwhelmed by conflicting emotions of dread and joy, Grant fell to his knees weeping. He had grown to love in the other life, a life of promise and faith. Returning to his worldly possessions, he felt empty. In this world, he lived as a tyrant, a miser, snuffing out the light of Christmas, hateful and angry. In this life, Marissa despises him.
“What if redemption is a bridge to far for me to cross here?” Grant crouched over in fear. As he lay prostrate on the floor, his eyes noticed a humble, yet hardy Christmas tree in the corner of his bedroom. The evergreen, meek in stature, reminded him of the journey he’d traversed, it filled him with hope and faith, overcoming the shadow of doubt with light. From the branches hung twelve ornaments, each representing one of the twelve gifts he’d received in his sojourn. Underneath the tree, he found a box, a gift, wrapped in colorful paper with images of Saint Nicholas and crosses. He hesitated before opening the gift.
Inside the box, a red book, the same red book, he’d kept inside his backpack during his life as a transient. Sifting through the pages, he found the story of his sojourn, retold as a fairytale, each event chronicled by illustrations and poetic verse, revealing the hardships and lessons of the journey. Each spiritual gift in renaissance style calligraphy with a corresponding verse. The title of the leather-bound red book, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,’ by Grant Spaulding. At the back of the book, Grant noticed an inscription.
‘To Grant, remember the light of Christ and actively pursue to live by the twelve gifts of Christmas; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, humility, grace, faith, hope and wisdom. Help is here, all you have to do is pray – Saint Nicholas.’
“It was not a dream,” Grant revitalized. “I have been given a second chance.”
Invigorated by redemption, he turned on the television to find out the date. December 25.
“Merry Christmas to all our KSEA viewers. There is temporary reprieve for the nearly one million NWTC workers at risk of losing their jobs. In an eleventh-hour move, Grant Spaulding, dubbed ‘The Grinch of Seattle,’ postponed the vote to initiate his unpopular FLEX Plan until January 6.
One can only pray that The Grinch of Seattle is being moved by the spirit of Christmas, love, and goodwill, and will have an epiphany over the next twelve days. Browder Anderson, reporting live from the NWTC headquarters.”
“I can fix this,” Grant moving at a frenzied pace. “I am not the man I once was. I have seen the light of Christ. I will spend the rest of my life actively working as his servant, spreading the gifts of Christmas all my days.”
Picking up the phone he dialed Teresa’s cellphone. It went straight to voicemail.
“Teresa, this is Grant Spaulding. Merry Christmas. I am sorry to bother you. I need your help. It is imperative that you call me back.” Hanging up the phone, he sent for Earl. “I need you to pick me up at the penthouse as soon as possible.”
“Merry Christmas,” Grant got into the limo, full of joy.
“Are you feeling okay sir?” Earl never knew his boss to be so cheerful. Frankly he found the behavior bizarre.
“Better than ever. I have received the Twelve Gifts of Christmas.” Grant gushed. “I am grateful for your services Earl; I know you would prefer to spend Christmas with your family. I wouldn’t have phoned you if it weren’t an emergency. I promise that you will be rewarded handsomely for your help.”
“It’s nothing sir, my family lives on the east coast.”
“I’ll give you next week of and pay for you to go see them.”
“Sir, you don’t have to that.” Earl shocked by his boss’s kindness.
“I want to. You have been a loyal employee, and I have treated you poorly. I promise from this day forward things are going to change. I am going to be a better man.”
“Merry Christmas Mr. Spaulding.” Earl smiled, still skeptical about the transformation. “Where can I take you?”
“Saint Nicholas Abbey in Pioneer Square.” Grant instructed. On the way to church, he made a series of phone calls, including tracking down caterers and various non-profit entities. “Wait in the alley. I’ll be back within the hour.”
Stepping inside the abbey, Grant kneeled before the cross, thankful for the selfless mercy and love he received on a Christmas past, the Christmas that ignited his spirit to seek the light.
“Mr. Spaulding?” Teresa astounded to find her miserly boss kneeling before the cross.
“Merry Christmas!” Grant’s jovial demeanor caught her off guard. “I came to thank you for your service as my secretary. I have been a tyrant; it took the light of Christ for me to understand that Christmas is selfless love. You taught me the first lesson of Agape love. Your mercy a light in the darkness.”
“I am at a loss for words.” Teresa mouth gaping wide. She believed in the power of prayer, but this was miraculous.
“I know that you want to remodel the basement at Saint Nicholas Abbey to turn it into a transitional housing center for families suffering homelessness. I know this cannot fully atone for my past behavior; it comes from my heart.” Grant handed Teresa a check for $500,000 made out to Saint Nicholas Abbey.
“Mr. Spaulding, I am in a state of shock. As gracious as this gift is I do not know if I can accept it. It is too generous.”
“It comes from love. In the remodel, I ask that new showers are installed. Also, I don’t want any recognition for the donation. No plaque, no accolades. It is born out of mercy not satisfying my ego.”
“Of course…” Teresa weeping with joy, overwhelmed by her boss’s transformation. “Saint Nicholas Abbey is grateful for your selfless donation.”
“Saint Nicholas inspired me step into the light of Christmas. It is an honor to help.”
“Won’t you stay for Mass?”
“No, I have business to attend to at Pioneer Place. I’ll see you tonight at the Christmas Feast at Saint Anthony’s”
“You’re coming to the outreach dinner?” Teresa surprised.
“Tomorrow I need your help to roll out a revised proposal of the FLEX Plan. I have tweaked a few points on Marissa and Michael’s plan. I am suspending layoffs, rather reinvesting in our workforce, including opening a new factory for our Made in America line. These factories will be built in depressed economic areas, creating jobs, and making NWTC the most sustainable company in the U.S.”
“God bless.” Teresa shouting praise, grateful to God for igniting a light of compassion in Grant’s soul.
“Merry Christmas,” Grant rushed over to Pioneer Place, where the homeless gathered for their humble Christmas meal. “Peace be with you.”
“God bless you.” Wilson answered with his gentle disposition.
“You don’t remember me. When I was hungry, you fed me, and helped me find a place to sleep. You taught me the lessons of selfless love and joy, kindness towards another. That light in the darkness, gave me hope. I will always be indebted to you.”
“I don’t remember your face.” Wilson moved to tears. “Your words uplift my soul. I am glad I could help you.”
“A caterer is on their way with a great feast for you and the group. I am also giving you each $1000 gift cards to Northwest Trading Company for food. It is not much, hopefully it is a hand up. I also am willing to hire anyone who needs a job at my company.”
“You are a Christmas miracle.”
“I am a humble servant of the father above.” Grant dismissed. He searched the crowd. “Jepson.”
“Yes?” Jepson scrutinized Grant’s face.
“I hear that you are in need a job. My name is Grant Spaulding. I am the CEO of Northwest Trading Company.”
“The Grinch of Seattle?” Jepson blurted out. “Sorry, I thought your company is firing thousands of employees?”
“Christmas made me realize the value of employees. I have decided to expand our U.S. production. I need a construction foreman. You will find the terms, in this folder, along with my business card. As part of your employment package, you will have access to an apartment, all expenses paid.”
“Mr. Spaulding, I am shocked. This is a miracle from heaven. How did you learn about my credentials, not to mention my current situation?”
“Let’s just say that we met in another life.” Grant smiled. “I hope you will accept the job. We would be honored to have you on our team.”
“Absolutely I accept.” Jepson humbled. “Your kindness has saved the life of my family. I promise you won’t regret hiring me.”
“Here is the key to your apartment. It is in NWTC Tower. See you in my office tomorrow morning?”
“Bless you, Mr. Spaulding.”
“Where to now?” Earl asked as Grant reentered the limo.
“I need you to take me to Horace Shelton’s house. I think you know the address.”
“Does Mr. Shelton expect you? He might be out of town, the holiday and all.”
“Just take me there.” Grant insisted.
The Shelton family lives in a quaint bungalow in the Queen Anne neighborhood. The house has been in his family for years and is a warm and inviting space.
Boldly Grant stepped onto the front porch, ringing the bell, and knocking heavily. Minutes after banging on the door, Horace Shelton appeared, none too pleased to see Grant.
“I do not have time for your angry tirades today. It is Christmas and we all deserve peace and joy. I will fight you tooth and nail on the FLEX Plan. I insist you leave my property.”
“Merry Christmas.” Grant keep his head down, ashamed for his past behavior. “In a miracle of sorts, I have been blessed to receive the twelve gifts of Christmas. I understand it is my duty as owner of Northwest Trading Company to serve. People over profits. I hope you will forgive my miserly ways. I intend to spend the rest of my life working to selflessly serve, acting as a steward, following God’s will, not driven by my greed. I am no longer pursuing the FLEX Plan. Instead of layoffs, I want to increase our workforce, reinvesting in U.S. Production, creating an organic product line, working hand in hand with small businesses and suppliers. I also want to double our contributions to charity in the coming year. It is a grand plan, and the board will be skeptical with expansion on this level. I hope you will support me in this job-creating initiative. It will lead to soaring profits, putting people first.”
“I’m stupefied, thrilled with your turnaround, this epiphany. It is truly remarkable. I fear I must be dreaming.” Horace seeing the old fire in Grant’s eyes, the fire of the young man he’d met years ago, the man with a conscience and will to serve.
“You are not dreaming. Meet me in my office tomorrow for a working lunch. We can work out the new proposal.”
“Merry Christmas Horace. Thank you for believing I could be redeemed. You always saw the best in me and called me out when I acted maliciously.”
“This may be the best Christmas I can remember. Merry Christmas to you!” Horace embraced his colleague. “Come you must have dinner with my family.”
“As much as I would love to break bread with your family, I have a few pressing matters to attend to, namely Marissa Bright.”
“Saint Jude’s Community Center in Capitol Hill,” Grant directed.
“Mind my asking what business you have there?” Earl inquired, still perplexed by his boss’s transformation from the Grinch of Seattle to the goodwill ambassador of Christmas. It is one thing to see the light, another to be blinded by it.
“Desperate hope…” Grant sighed, hoping that Marissa could forgive him. The time they spent together forever etched on his heart. Against the odds he had fallen in love with her.
“You’re going to wear out the floorboards, not to mention break your favorite pair of heels.” Noelle incited her sister to sit down.
“Pacing is good medicine; it relieves my stress.” Marissa’s heels clacking.
“Anxiety never solved any problems. You’ll find another job.”
“I am not worried about that.” Marissa bit her lip. “It is Zeke. He snuck out this morning. I found him smoking with Tony. I reprimanded him and told him not to see Tony again. Zeke cursed me out and refused to open his presents. He made Sarah cry. I am losing my grip. I don’t know what to do anymore. I love my son more than life itself…he keeps building up walls.”
“Love tears down walls. Zeke loves you. You are a great mom. Be patient.” Noelle encouraged.
“I had to drag him down to the center today. He said I ruined Christmas.”
“You did,” Zeke entered the conversation. “Why should we have to serve meals to the homeless on Christmas and hand out toys to other children? I want to be at home playing with my new X-box game.”
“Christmas is about love and giving. The greatest gift is service. You can play with your X-box later.” Marissa gentle, yet firm.
“Whatever. We will be in the bread lines soon, seeing you got fired.” Zeke curtly replied.
“I lost my job standing up for injustice, I don’t apologize for that. You should be grateful that we have food on the table when others have so little.” Marissa exasperated. Before further words could be exchanged, Benny entered the office.
“Marissa, there is someone to see you. He is waiting in the Labre Community Room.”
“I will be right there.” Marissa flustered. “This conservation isn’t over Zeke.”
“It is for me!” Zeke stormed off.
“Give him some time to cool off.” Noelle suggested. “He cannot be in a foul mood forever.”
“I fear he will die trying,” Marissa sighed, hesitating before heading to the Labre Wing. Much to her chagrin, she found her arch nemesis, the Grinch of Seattle himself kneeling before her.
“Merry Christmas Ms. Bright.” Grant wanted so desperately for her to remember the time they’d shared in these walls. She had been a light in a dark place, a force of hope in desperation. Only yesterday, she’d gazed in his eyes with tender affection, now her face swelled with hate.
“What are you doing here?” Marissa furious.
“Give me five minutes,” Grant pleaded.
“Five minutes for what? To gloat about how you plan to fire thousands of employees in the name of greed. Or shall we discuss your policy to cut off NWTC’s charitable foundation that decision alone is forcing Saint Jude’s closure of our Labre Center and cutting off after school care in February. Do realize the good Saint Jude’s does for Seattle? It is a critical resource…”
“Saint Jude’s is one of the most important ministries in Seattle. It is a core of the community that brings people together and offers desperate hope. Saint Jude’s saved me from a dark place. It gave me a light, revealing the twelve gifts of Christmas. I want to donate 5 million dollars to the center; I also want to extend your program model and build additional community centers in Seattle.”
“If you are trying to buy me off!” Marissa’s temper flared. She couldn’t perceive a man as spineless as Grant Spaulding making a 5 million-dollar donations, unless he expected nothing in return.
“I could never buy something as precious and dear as you, Miss. Bright. I assure you that my intentions are honorable.” Grant’s voice meek and sincere. Marissa questioned her instinct, could a man as hateful as Grant Spaulding be moved by the spirit of Christmas. The transformation seemed more unlikely than the conversion of Paul or Ebenezer Scrooge.
“I’ll cut to the chase. I am not going through with the FLEX Plan. It is selfish and would be morally and ethically wrong. Instead, I’d like to enlist you and Michael Horton in creating a new proposal, focusing on implementing the technology, while also increasing our workforce, reinvesting in our infrastructure and building factories in economically depressed areas to create jobs. This plan might sound sweeping and risky, yet I’ve punched the numbers and people over profits will ensure the longevity of our brand.” Grant detailed the new FLEX plan, a plan of hope, not despair and greed.
“If you have forgotten, you fired me.” Marissa still skeptical.
“You are rehired, double the salary.”
“You think I’m going to just walk back into NWTC after the way you treated me?”
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you. I’m not that man anymore. I’ve changed. I promise I will respect you. I respect you more than you realize.”
“I will consider your offer…still I have doubts. How does a man so consumed by greed and self-ego, darkened by hate, transform into a kind and humble businessman overnight? How do I know this act isn’t a ruse?”
“This transformation, epiphany, if you will, is not by my own merits, but stirred by the grace of God. His light pierced my dark heart with love.” Grant paused. “Bear with me. My speech might sound like riddles, still I am speaking the truth…once there was a man, filled with rage and consumed by the world. He cared only for himself. He was a cruel and malicious man. One Christmas Eve, he received a visit, a supernatural visit from Saint Nicholas…”
“Grant, I don’t understand…”
“Saint Nicholas was sent by God, to intercede on behalf of this wretched man, lost in darkness. The man rebuked the visitor and God’s call, still Saint Nicholas, carrying the torch of Christ’s love, persisted. He promised to bestow twelve gifts of Christmastide, gifts to awaken the soul, calling the worst of sinners into redemption’s light. The man, who found security in his worldly wealth, awoke transformed as a beggar, homeless on the street. The man was humbled, in his forsaken state, he found Christ. People, strangers showed him kindness, agape love. This man perceived the struggles of his fellow human, and in his own struggle learned compassion. He found faith, love, joy, and grace and hope here at the Labre Center, where a wonderful, kind, and beautiful lady named Marissa Bright opened doors from desperation to hope. For twelve days the man lived in this alternate world, until awoke again in his own bed, a man of wealth and luxury, yet guided by a different purpose. I am that man. I cannot make you believe my experience; it is something magical and strange. In that other world, I came to intrinsically learn the value of life and respect for the least to the greatest. In becoming a beggar, I learned to serve for the king. In this myth, a waking dream if you will, we were friends and your active kindness a door to forgiveness. I know you don’t remember this fable. I do hope you can see that I have changed, and I am kneeling before you today, begging for your forgiveness and understanding. I understand if you wish to leave NWTC, I pray you will remain on staff. I value you as an employee.”
Something in Grant’s story seemed familiar, like a forgotten dream. The thought so distant, she couldn’t quite place her finger on it, until Grant, without warning leaned in to kiss her. The moment so familiar, so perfect. She didn’t remember all the details, but the essence of a kiss.
“I apologize for kissing you. It was a gamble that you might remember…”
“We kissed before…the Space Needle…” Marissa confused. “For reasons I cannot explain I remember kissing you at the Space Needle. Through the mists we could see Mount Rainier…I don’t understand.”
“It doesn’t matter, just know that kiss came from my heart. For reasons I cannot explain, we fell in love in another life…I don’t expect that now. I only bring it up because I want you to understand how much I care about you and my commitment to following through on my promise to act with corporate responsibility. You taught me that a life spent giving is worth more than the wealth of the world. Come back to NWTC and help me restructure the business model to put people over profits.”
“Grant…” Marissa whispered, stirred by memories she could not quantify. An eerie Déjà vu, filling the air. She knew instinctively that a miraculous transformation had come over her employer. “I will return to Northwest Trading Company, if you promise to that you will terminate the FLEX Plan and work towards a solution that does not lay employees.”
“My plan calls for expansion of the workforce. Reinvesting in the company with a commitment to sustainable, American made products, as well as food that meets organic standards. I want to start a ‘Back to Work Program’ where NWTC will train those living below the poverty line, including transients, giving them jobs. It will be called the ‘Hand Up’ Program.”
“Your transformation is truly miraculous. I prayed to Saint Jude, patron of the desperate, that you would have an epiphany…I thought you were beyond saving. I am so glad I was wrong.”
“I owe this change in character to the light of Christ. He is an advocate of the lost,” Grant squeezed her hand. “I don’t deserve your grace, I hope in time you can forgive my past actions and learn to trust me, even call me a friend.”
“You are already forgiven.”
“I will warn you about Zeke. He is running around with thugs. Tony and Jax work as drug runners for a dealer named Rox. They are very violent kids.”
“How do you know about my son?”
“The space between dreams and reality. Zeke is a great kid. He holds onto anger as a form of grief. He is afraid if he lets go of his anger it means he is forgetting his dad. He thinks mourning equates anger. Let him know that letting go of anger is the best way to keep Trevor’s memory alive.”
“You are a God send?” Marissa suddenly moved to tears.
“Zeke loves you. You just have to be patient with him.” Grant handed her a handkerchief. “I’d like to stay and help serve the Christmas meal at St. Jude’s?”
“We can always use an extra hand.” Marissa dried her eyes. “Ironic how things have changed. I hated you yesterday. Now, all I see is light and hope in your eyes. Kindness and love. Christmas kindled something in you…”
“For the record I always admired your spitfire personality, not to mention your natural beauty.” Grant smiled.
“Don’t think flattery will get you very far.” Marissa teased.
“I’m patient.” Grant hoped someday, Marissa would fall back in love with him, he would be patient, respecting her wishes.
Grant spent three hours serving meals at the community center. He hated to leave Marissa and her kids, he still had work to do by the light of Christmas Day.
“You’ll get another job Michael. Have faith.” Betsy’s gentle voice consoling her husband. “God works in mysterious ways. When he closes a door…”
“Another opens, I know,” Michael sighed. “In the interim my stress level is sky high, especially now that you are expecting…”
“Though we might walk through the fire of the world, God is with us, refining our spirit and strengthening the soul.” Betsy ever the sage optimist. “Now stop wallowing in self-pity. Worry never solves anything. Active love, is a gift that gives back.”
“Michael,” Grant entered the church gym.
“Mr. Spaulding? What are you doing here?” Michael shaking in fear.
“I came to apologize for my behavior. I know my behavior is inexcusable, still I hope that you can accept my regrets and will be willing to return to work at Northwest Trading Company.”
“You are giving me my job back?” Michael dumbfounded. What spurred this change of heart?
“Actually, I’d like to promote you. I want you and Marissa to personally help me spearhead a new proposal, where no layoffs occur, we increase US production, focus on organic products…we can discuss the details tomorrow in my office.”
“You are not going to go through with the layoffs?”
“No, Christmas has taught me the value of people, and our employees are very important to the success of our company. I was a stubborn, a selfish fool. I have seen the light and I will spend the rest of my life working to serve others.”
“God always searches out the lost and rejoices when they return to his stead,” Betsy spoke, having overhead their conversation. “My husband is grateful for your apology. Thank you for giving him his job back. It means a lot to both of us.”
“Michael is one of the finest business minds I have had the pleasure to work with.” Grant held.
“I know it is a humble affair, still it would be wonderful if you would stay for the feast,” Betsy invited.
“Nothing would please me more, but I’m do back at my family’s farm. I have arranged for gift cards to NWTC to be provided to each diner. I hope you will also accept an anonymous donation to assist with further outreach.” Grant handed Betsy a check for $10,000 as well as 300 gift cards.
“Mr. Spaulding, this is far too generous.”
“It is merely an act of love. I won’t take credit for it. Thank you for your service to the community. Saint Anthony’s is a vital resource for those in need.”
“This is a Christmas miracle indeed,” Betsy and Michael embraced Grant.
Stay tuned for the final chapters…
Please excuse any typos