There are many gifts you can give your prospects and customers at this time of year.  Here are just a few:

  1. A listening ear
  2. Great service, beyond expectation
  3. The perfect solution to their problem
  4. Time
  5. Knowledge
  6. A sincere compliment
  7. A referral
  8. Friendship
  9. A tangible gift; a token of your appreciation
  10. A smile

Here is my gift to you.  Share it with everyone you meet during this special season.  I first read this story entitled “The Christmas Local”, told by Aleene Sanders in the December issue of the Amtrak magazine almost thirty-five years ago while traveling from Washington DC to New York City.

The Christmas Local

We never considered the wail of the old steam locomotive mournful, as I’ve heard some people say.  The passage of the trains behind our house was often the only contact we had with others for days at a time.  My brother and I were thrilled by the roaring engine, the clicking wheels and the shrill melodies of the whistle.  At the first sound we would rush out back to wave wildly to the crew members or even try to outrun the engine as it slowed for the dirt road crossing a quarter mile away.  We felt as though the trainmen were our friends, although we never got a chance to talk to them.  They often tossed us the funny papers from distant cities or bags of hard candy or black liquorice whips.

It was a hard winter for us.  Dad’s little temporary job played out.  A bout of the flu left him weak and coughing for a month, unable to cut trees from across the tracks and split them into firewood.  Probably the hardest thing of all for him was breaking the news to us that there would be no Christmas gifts this year.  My brother and I took the news in stride.  We had discussed the possibility privately many times.

The day before Christmas dawned cold and frosty.  Mother had us stay in our warm beds until mid morning.  She then dressed quickly and went to our depleting woodpile.  When she returned, we could see tears on her face as she built the fire.  We stayed close to the stove all day to keep warm.  Nearing sundown we heard the Local Train whistling its return trip.  It was sounding short, sharp blasts so insistent that we all grabbed coats and hurried outside.  Looking down the tracks at the slowly approaching train, we saw an amazing sight!  The head brakeman was dancing on the high mound of coal on the tender car.  With each hopping step, he kicked off great lumps of precious fuel.  The black nuggets and chunks littered the right of way as far down the tracks as we could see.

The fireman leaned far out the window of the engine to drop down a big brown paper package carefully wrapped with heavy twine.  The rear brakeman jumped from the caboose and thrust a large cardboard box into Dad’s hands and then he and the conductor shouted “Merry Christmas”.  Excited and delighted, we helped our parents gather plenty of coal for the night, leaving the rest to be picked up by morning light.  Later that evening when we had warmed and settled a little, Dad took out his pocketknife and cut the cord on the box.  Apples, oranges, Christmas candy and nuts greeted our wondering gaze.  The brown paper bundle yielded a dear little sleepy-eyed baby doll, a toy truck, crayons, coloring books and a game of checkers.  Along with the toys was a scribbled note, “We noticed your woodpile was getting low.  Keep warm.  Merry Christmas!”

Later, while we happily clutched our unexpected gifts, Dad opened the Bible and read aloud the wonderful story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem.  Together we thanked God for the gift of the Savior and for the generous railroad men He had sent our way.

Merry Christmas from Tim Huffaker and the Business Performance Group