A Christmas story

I remember fondly the stories that were told in the house where I grew up. Just as every child I had my favorites, each time told and embellished, they became more powerful. I had my favorite readers too. I believe the child in us all loves the magic of a story.

My very favorite story teller, Joseph Campbell, philosopher, theologian, lecturer and author could tell the most powerful stories. Intertwining religion, ritual, and just the right touch of magic, his audiences would sit spellbound as the story would unfold.

I'd like to tell you a story I heard this past fall at a seminar on stress and disease. A fascinating lecturer, Nicholas Hall, Ph.D. , spoke in depth about the power of the mind and its effect on the body. His field -- the very new one psychoneuroimmunologly -- or the study of how the mind effects our immunity, can be be a story and a mystery all by itself! All day he would step back and forth in the lecture from documented scientific facts to threads of anecdotal stories and feedback from his research.

He ended the day with a true story of a friend and his family living as neighbors in the greater Tampa area. It begins with a father reading his 7-year-old daughter a bedtime story. There were many stories told, but the very favorite story told that night, and as many as three or four times a week was that of ''Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.'' The father kissed his daughter goodnight, went down the steps, and fell over dead from a massive heart attack. The child was allowed to sleep through the night but was awakened early the next morning by her mother with the terrible news.

The child sobbed uncontrollably while complaining that she knew her father would not just leave without saying goodbye, and that her birthday was only a few weeks away and why was it that he couldn't stay around for her party?

The terror of feeling abandoned by her father manifested in frequent absences from school, poor grades, tummy aches, nightmares and tantrums. Her mother, at her wits' end, took her to the school psychologist whose suggestion was to allow her to act out, within limits, and spend some one-on-one time with her in her favorite places. She chose to go to the Clearwater Beach as she had done so many times with her father.

While at the beach one day with her mother, they began making out invitations for her upcoming birthday party to be celebrated the day of her birthday at her home. She told her mother she was going to send an invitation to her father. The invitation was addressed simply To: ''Daddy in Heaven.'' The rest of the invitation was filled out just as all the others, and ''Oh Daddy, if you've forgotten where we live here's the address. Your loving daughter.'' The invitation was left in the sand on the beach.

Her mother seemed to notice that her daughter was calmer after that day and felt that possibly this had been the closing she needed with her father. The little girl had a very different belief.

Unbeknownst to the little girl, an elderly couple found the invitation one day while out walking on the beach. They were so taken with her simple words, knowing that her father would not be coming, they decided they would buy her a gift and deliver it to her home the day of the party.

The day of the party came and all of her invited guests had come, except for her father. She seemed distracted and stared frequently at the door waiting for one last guest. Just as the party games began, the doorbell rang one more time. The little girl ran to the door, sure she knew who would be waiting on the other side.

To her dismay, an elderly couple stood there smiling and bearing gifts. They greeted her and called her by her first name. At first she was disheartened and began to cry. The couple explained to her mother that they had found the invitation in the sand and were invited in.

From that day forward, the little girl improved and was able to put the loss of her father behind her. The gift from the elderly couple-- a video of ''Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.''

Happy Holidays! Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 21, 1999

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