Jed Young was what most people would call a “victim of unfortunate events”. He was born out of wed-lock, raised in the poorest conditions imaginable – and during the depression.
When he was a little boy, these facts didn’t seem to matter to him. He played in the small dirty yard of the shack he and his mother called home. Sometimes he would help his mother to tote heavy laundry baskets full of other people’s clothes to his house to be washed or mended. It didn’t matter if sometimes he went to bed hungry, or that he would sometimes get corn grits for breakfast, lunch, and supper for days in a row. He was happy, his mother loved him, and he loved her. That was all that mattered.
As he got older, there came the day when it was time for him to go to school. Happily for his mother, school didn’t cost anything, and she proudly watched him walk to school that first morning, thankful that he was going to get an education.
Seven-year old Jed walked with his head high and his chest fluttering with excitement. He was going to school! He was going to learn all sorts of useful things, and most of all, he was going to make some friends!
When Jed walked up to the school yard, he saw several boys and girls playing in the school yard. They looked up as he came in the gate, and he smiled nervously.
One boy stood up from where he was playing marbles. “Hey, look at the rag-bags!” The other children laughed, and started calling him Rag-bags, and asking if he hadn’t jumped in the patch box before he came to school.
Jed’s smile quickly vanished, and he looked down at his clothes. Sure, they didn’t look very good with all the patches, but they were clean, and served their purpose very well. He set his jaw and walked into the school house. It didn’t matter what the others thought, he was here to learn.
His unfriendly welcome was soon forgotten, as he worked hard at his lessons, but when lunch time came, again he was surrounded by a sea of unfriendly faces.
“Hey Rag-bags, whatcha got for lunch?”
Jed’s hand went protectively to his pocket. His mother had bartered for an egg, so he could have something special for his first day at school. But he knew the other kids would laugh if they knew he had a single boiled egg for his lunch. He dashed outside and hid behind a bush so no one would know what he did or didn’t have to eat.
Day after day, week after week, he had to suffer from the meanness of the other children. Now there were many times when he didn’t have anything for lunch, but he would go and seek his refuge behind the bush still, to avoid the stares and jeers of the others. Many times silent tears would stream down his cheeks, he wanted nothing more than to be at home with his mother, but he would never disappoint her so much. He worked courageously on, though many times he had to fight bravely to keep the others from seeing his tears.
All this was not going on unnoticed, however, and the small, kind woman he called his teacher worked slowly and steadily on becoming his friend. One day, it was a lot colder than normal, and he again was sitting behind his bush for lunch hour, when he heard a step and a soft voice.
“What? Finished eating all ready? My! You’re a fast eater! I thought it was too beautiful a day to sit inside, may I sit with you?”
Jed looked up at his teacher and nodded. He didn’t tell her that he had nothing for lunch that day. She sat carefully beside him and opened her lunch box. He tried not to stare as she pulled out thickly sliced piece of bread with butter and jam. He had not had bread since… He looked down at his shoes. He wasn’t going to let her see how hungry he was. She had only taken a couple bites when she sighed.
“My eyes must be bigger than my stomach today, I’m not sure why I fixed so much, I’m not really hungry at all. Do you think you could eat my other piece of bread? I really would hate to see it go to waste.”
Jed looked up to see if she was in earnest, but there she was holding out that thick slice of yeasty goodness. He tried to hide his eagerness, but a twinkle came into the kind little teacher’s eyes as she watched him gobble up the bread.
From then on, the teacher came often to sit with him during lunch hour. He was amazed that so often she would fix more than she could eat, or that she wasn’t hungry when lunch hour came. He could never bring more than what he wanted to eat, and he was always hungry!
The weather was growing steadily colder, and the days growing shorter. School would soon be out for the Christmas holidays, and Jed listened silently as the other children chattered and boasted about what they would get for Christmas.
One night, as he was studying his lessons at the table, he looked up at his mother, who was ironing in front of the small stove.
“Mother, do you think if I asked God for only one present for Christmas, that He could give it to me?”
His mother stopped ironing and inwardly sighed. It would be a blessing if they even had something to eat for Christmas, let alone having presents. She looked up with tired eyes.
“I don’t know Jed, He may, but you know He doesn’t always give us what we ask for. Why? What do you want?”
Jed’s eyes sparkled. “I’d want a banana. George Davies had one at school last week, and it smelled so good! Teacher said that they were good and filling, just about the nicest fruit you could get! I would ask God for a banana.”
His mother tried to smile at him. “You can ask God, honey, but remember, asking, doesn’t mean you’ll get it. He may want you to have something else this year. You must ask according to His will.”
Jed’s dark head nodded gravely, “I know. But I’ll ask all the same.” With that, he turned back to his books.
Late that night, long after Jed was in bed, his mother ironed with a heavy heart.
“Such a dear boy,” She thought. “All he wants is a banana, but bless my soul, fruit is so expensive now a days, I don’t see any way that I can get him one.”
She thought on how cheerful and brave Jed was when he was at home. Oh, she knew there was trouble at school, a mother’s eyes can see a lot of things. But never had she heard him complain. Oh! She so wanted to get him a banana for Christmas!
She suddenly stood erect. Jed’s simple question was her answer. There was no way she could get him what he wanted, but God could help her. Then and there, she kneeled down and asked the Lord to please help her be able to give her brave boy a banana for Christmas.
Days passed and Christmas drew closer and closer. Both Jed and his mother continued to pray for that Christmas banana, but Jed’s mother realized with a heavy heart that the Lord might not answer that prayer this year.
Two days before Christmas, Jed was out chopping wood for their fire, and his mother was cleaning the house, putting a little greenery and red bows made from the scrap box. “At least,” She had told Jed with a small smile, “We’ll have it looking like Christmas.”
A knock at the door brought a confused look to Miss Young’s careworn face. “Who would be coming here?” she wondered.
She hurriedly went to the door, and on opening it, beheld Jed’s kind teacher.
“Hello, Miss Young?”
“I am Jed’s teacher, he told me you did laundry and mending and things of that sort.”
The confused mother quickly regained her composure. “Yes ma’am, I do, would you like to step in from the cold?”
The teacher came inside, and after exclaiming over the tasteful way the house was decorated, stated her business.
“I have this dress that I was planning on wearing to my parent’s Christmas party, but was mortified to find that it had a rip in this seam. I know it is short notice, but do you think you could mend it for tomorrow? I’ll pay you well.”
A lovely smile of relief and gratitude flooded over the young mother’s face. Would she? I should say so!
Arrangements were quickly made, and the teacher left, leaving in Miss Young’s hand full twice the amount she charged!
The dress was mended by the next afternoon, and she sent Jed over to the other side of town to deliver it. As soon as he left, she pulled on her own worn coat and hurried to the store.
Supper that night was simple, and not very filling, but both mother and son went to bed happy and hopeful. Jed trusting God to answer his Christmas request, and his mother with a heart full of thankfulness and love.
Jed woke the next morning to the smell of corn grits, he hurried on his clothes and ran into the kitchen. There was a small box next to his place at the table, and he looked at his mother excitedly.
“Not until after breakfast, Jed.” She smiled at him.
He sat down and as they prayed together, his mother thanked God for His provision of everything they needed, and for His added blessings.
Breakfast was small, and didn’t take long to eat. As soon as he was finished, Jed looked at his mother, his eyes begging in question. She smiled at him, and he grabbed the box. Opening it took but a couple seconds, and Jed’s face glowed with pleasure and excitement as he pulled a very small, but very real banana from the box!
After looking at it in thankful excitement, he rose from his chair and crossing the kitchen grabbed a knife.
“What are you doing honey?” His mother asked, enjoying his pleasure.
“I know you worked for this too, and I want to share it.” Jed stated determinedly.
His mother tried to dissuade him, but he was determined they would enjoy it together. He handed his mother the knife, and watched with eager anticipation as she cut the banana lengthwise down the center.
They both stared dumbfound at the two halves lying open on the table. The banana was rotten.
Tears sprang up in Jed’s eyes, he knew it wasn’t his mother’s fault, but he was so disappointed.
As his mother gathered him in her arms, he felt something wet drip onto his forehead, and looked up. His mother was crying too! He suddenly realized that she wanted him to have the banana just as much as he wanted it himself. He tucked his head and wrapped his arms around her, and they cried together.
That evening as they sat together by the warmth of the stove, Jed looked over at his mother. Suddenly he realized that God had given him and even better Christmas gift than a banana. God showed him just how much his mother loved and felt for him. A banana would only last as long as it took to eat it, but he had his mother every day of his life. His mother looked back at him and smiled warmly, then held out her arms. Jed crawled into the warmth of her embrace, “Merry Christmas, my brave boy.” She told him, planting a kiss in his hair. “Merry Christmas, mother.” He said as he snuggled deeper into her arms.
It was a hard life they had to live, and the day had its disappointments, but they were together, and in a way, Jed knew that this was the best Christmas ever. He would never forget it as long as he lived.