Spiritual Fiction posted December 15, 2010

This work has reached the exceptional level
A drunk performs penance (818 words)

Penance, A letter to Santa

by c_lucas

A tall man stepped out of the shadows. He looked both ways to make sure the rain-drenched street was empty and hurried to the Grace Community Church's unlocked front door. He took a sealed envelope from his pocket, slipped it into the opening of the box and fled back to the street. In a flash, he disappeared in the dark shadows. 
Reverend Jim Davis stood on the steps of his church and scanned the moderate pedestrian and street traffic. A variety of businesses and the city's lights poles were decked with Christmas themes. "Merry Christmas," he said to no one in particular and stepped into the vestibule. He stopped by the box wrapped in gold and silver paper. The index card taped to its side read, "Christmas Card Box."
The box served a dual purpose. During the year, it served as a Prayer Box. At Christmastime, the seasonal decorated box allowed correspondence between members with other members, or special requests from members to the Christmas Committee or him. His secretary, Mary Alice, emptied it daily and sorted out the letters and notes. She also served as Chairperson of the Christmas Committee.
Although the bulk of the correspondence would end up on his desk, Jim did not touch the box. Mary Alice will bring me her updated list as soon as she can.
Jim walked over to his office door and unlocked it, before he knocked on the door of his secretary's office, next to his office. After he heard a buzzing sound and click, he opened her door and stepped in. "Good morning, Mary Alice. Is there anything that needs my attention before I start my Hour of Prayer?"
"Morning Jim." The twenty-two year old, wheelchair bound woman held out a thick Blue envelope simply marked "Santa." Her face was pasty. Tears flowed silently as she handed it to him. "I know it's from him."
"Excuse me for a moment, I'll be right back." He hurried to his office and grabbed two signs with gold cords for hanging on hooks or doors. The first sign, "Prayer," he hung on his door. The second sign, "Counseling," he hung on Mary Alice's opened door before closing it. "Lock it, please and put the phone on voice messaging." She pushed the button and the door locking system activated. She pressed a different, soundless button turning off the phone Christmas Chimes ringers.
"Are you ready for me to read this?" He held the envelope up. She nodded and dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
Reverend Davis closed his eyes for a moment before using Mary Alice's letter opener on the envelope.
"Why does he do it every year? I forgave him long ago." She wasn't expecting an answer and waited for Jim to start reading.
Dear Santa,
Please see that Mary Alice Gibson receives this money. Ten thousand dollars isn't very much for what I stole from her.   I don't expect her to forgive me, but please let her know I have been sober for another year. I practiced my Twelve Steps faithfully every morning and I do my best to help others in need.
Santa, am I'm wrong in seeking her forgiveness? I wish, with all my might, I was sober and missed her in the crosswalks. I ran like a coward, leaving her to suffer until someone found her. Please tell her I'm sorry and ask for her forgiveness. Maybe I shouldn't, because I'll never forgive myself.
Thank you, Santa.  I know, maybe I should ask His forgiveness, but I'm not worthy of it, yet. I don't think I ever will be.
The letter, as usual, was unsigned. Jim removed the packet of hundred dollar bills, banded with a rubber band. He folded the letter, placed it back in the envelope. He laid both on her desk, reached over, touched Mary Alice's right shoulder, "Lord, Heal your faithful servant …."
When he finished, he pressed the button and unlocked the door. "I'm going to start my Prayer Hour. We can discuss the other letters when I'm through."
"Thank you, Jim. … I'll be okay in a couple of minutes. Would you mind if I left the phone on voice messaging for a few more minutes?"
"Leave it like it is as long as you want to. I'll see you after Prayer."
Jim went to his office and locked the door. He went through his morning ritual of preparation. Reaching into his bottom desk drawer, he retrieved the earphones and recorder, which he plugged in and turned on.
He put on the earphones, pressed "PLAY" and leaned back in his reclining office chair. "The Lord is my Shepherd …." He listened to his voice as it quoted the Twenty-Third Psalms and The Lord's Prayer. There was a brief moment of silence before his voice began again. "My name is Jim, I am an alcoholic. I admit I am helpless…."  

The Christmas Card Box writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
The challenge is to write a short story, under 1000 words describing a particular card or letter the pastor finds in the Christmas Card Box.
You may describe how he reacts to or handles the letter or card or leave it as a mystery.
The post must be family friendly, no obscenity, no offensive language.
Each entry must strive for some positive contribution to the reader.
It does not necessarily have to be about Christmas.


Twelve Steps
These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:[10]
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
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