Wise Ones

IMG_7172Being recently retired from teaching, one of the things I miss about being in school with students at this time of the year is my tradition of reading some of my Christmas stories.  This usually happened the last week before Christmas break.  “Wise Ones” is one of those stories and one of my favorites.


Here’s what I know about Christmas. Mostly it’s stuff that my teacher tells me when my friend Joshua takes me to church class on Wednesday nights. Mrs. Hammermill tells us in our class all the time about Christmas. She tells us about Mary and Joseph, shepherds and angels and the wise men. Mostly she tells us that the most important thing about Christmas is that it was when Jesus was born. She tells us that he came to give us the gift of salvation. She says we should give something to Jesus, too – our hearts. It took me a long time to figure that one out and I don’t think I have it figured out yet, so I just keep going to her class and keep trying to understand what she tells us. But what I do mostly is go to work every day. I do have that figured out.

Everyday at the bus stop in front of our house, we get on the bus, Frank and Goldie and I. We call the bus The Camel because we like the big picture of the camel on the side. He’s smoking a cigarette. We don’t like the cigarette but we love the camel. So we call the bus The Camel.

The Camel comes at 7 AM! That means I have to get out of bed at 6 AM! I don’t care how often a guy has to get up at 6 AM, that’s too early. It’s so early that I’m almost walking in my sleep when I get on the bus.

“Wake up, Murray. Watch your step,” That’s what Robert, The Camel driver, has to say to me. I don’t say nothing. I just give him my token and get a seat.

My friend, Frank, says to Robert, “Top of the morning, Robert!” He heard that on a movie once and never forgot it. Robert grins. He calls Frank a comedian. Goldie doesn’t talk much, not just in the morning getting on the bus, but any time of the day.

Everyday, we all sit in the front of The Camel, the bus that we ride to work. When work is over we get on a different bus and come home. We just call that one ‘the bus’ because it doesn’t have any pictures on it.

Me and Frank and Goldie all work at the same place. Our friend Joshua said that the Armstrong Hart Memorial Hospital needed our services and that we could work there and they would give us money! We were so nervous at first, but after awhile we got used to getting on The Camel every morning and going to work there.

Every morning when we get to Armstrong Hart Memorial Hospital, Robert says, “Here’s your stop.” Robert doesn’t say, “Here’s your stop,” to anyone else, just us. When we get off The Camel he always reminds us, “Make sure you have your backpacks.” What does he think, that we’re children? We’re not y’ know! Then he’s says, “Have a good day, amigos.” I think he’s our friend.

Mrs. Hammermill says in class that when Jesus was born, shepherds were abiding in the field with their flocks. Flocks are sheep and I think I have it figured out that abiding in the fields means that they were taking care of the sheep. Then she told us that after the angels came to tell them about Jesus, they went and worshiped him. After they worshiped baby Jesus they went back to abiding and praising God. Mrs. Hammermill says being a shepherd is important work. Then she says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” So it’s another thing I try to remember from my class – the Lord … shepherds … sheep and abiding, too. But I’m not a sheep so I have some thinking to do to figure that one out yet.  We do important abiding at the hospital. That’s what my friend Joshua says, although he calls it work. I’m just trying to use words that I’ve learned from Mrs. Hammermill. Anyway, I think Josh is right.

We start by punching in. Punching in is taking the card from the card rack – only the one with your own name on it, PLEASE – and sticking it in the time clock. The clock does the punching. Except one time I punched Frank, the comedian, when he put MY card in the clock. You know, the one with the name Murray on the top, instead of the one with HIS name, Frank, on it. He never did that again.

After we punch in, we all go all over the place and do different jobs. Me and Frank work with Charley, our boss. Frank used to put pop in the pop machine in the break room, until Charley said, “What comedian put all grape pop in the bottled water part?” Grape pop is Frank’s favorite. He figured if they wanted water they could use the drinking fountain down the hall. Charley, Frank’s boss, told Frank to leave the figuring to him. Charley looked at a nurse and said, “Group home…”  Then she nodded and said, “uh-huh.” Now Frank goes to the third floor and washes all the windows every day.

Goldie? Well, I don’t know what she does, but she gets to wear a shirt with red and white stripes and it has her name on it. She’s really good at smiling and hugging. I think her job is to make people happy.

I give Charley advice. But, I mostly clean drinking fountains and sinks and toilets. Charley says that it’s important to keep things clean in a hospital so that germs won’t live there. Germs make people sick, y’ know.

One day, the people at the place where I work, at Armstrong Hart Memorial Hospital gave me a birthday party for my birthday. They gave me presents and a big black balloon that said, “Happy Birthday, Murray” on one side and a big FORTY on the other side. It was funny.  Frank laughed and said, “Happy birthday, old man.”

I told Frank, I’m not an old man,” then I called him a comedian. Goldie didn’t say much. She smiled and gave me a big hug. That made me happy.

Mrs. Hammermill tells us in our class that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. For a long time I’ve been thinking I should get him a gift. But what kind of gift do you give to Jesus? How do I give it to him since Mrs. Hammermill says he’s in heaven? Maybe, if we gave him a birthday party… Do you think he would come?

The people at the hospital have a Christmas party for the sick kids, every year. They decorate the Sunshine Room with lots of Christmas stuff. The Sunshine Room is where the kids who are really sick and have to stay in the hospital can go, IF it’s okay with the nurse. The nurse is their boss. They go there for some sunshine, I guess, since it’s the room that has a lot of windows and is sunny, except at night and mostly during December when it gets to be winter. I think that’s why they have a big yellow sun painted on the wall across from the other wall with the rainbow. Sometimes they do puzzles or play with the toys. Sometimes they just look out the window at the pigeons on the roof across the alley.

Every Friday, after we punch out, which is what you do when you are done working and it’s time to go home, me and Frank and Goldie meet by the Sunshine Room after work. On Fridays, we visit and play with the kids in the Sunshine Room. Before we could do that the nurse said she would have to check with our case manager, whatever that is. She did and our case manager turned out to be Joshua, our friend. He said it would be fine. So, on Fridays we visit for awhile. It’s no big deal, not like the Christmas party. We just read and play and Goldie mostly just smiles and holds their hands.

Mrs. Hammermill says that at the first Christmas, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes. That’s how you could tell he was the one that the angels talked about. I don’t think I’ve ever seen swaddling clothes on anyone. Mrs. Hammermill says they’re like strips of cloth.

The sick kids in the Sunshine Room mostly are wearing their PJ’s. Some have bandages wrapped around things or maybe casts on legs or arms. Some have blond hair like Goldie and some have no hair at all. They all look really sick to me so it makes me work harder everyday to keep things clean so the germs won’t live there.

Joshua said we can stay one half hour with the kids in the Sunshine Room. “Don’t miss the bus home!” he says. That’s enough time for me to play a couple games of checkers or for Frank, the comedian, to read a few funny jokes or for Goldie to smile at whoever’s there.

Sometimes, kids stay in the hospital a long time and we get to know them better. Sometimes, when they finally get better and go home, they’ll stop by the Sunshine Room on Friday afternoon and say good-bye to us. We’ll say, “Good-bye,” and Goldie will smile and give them a hug.

Some of our Sunshine Room friends stop coming. We ask the nurse and she says that they’re too sick to come. They have to stay in their regular hospital room. The nurse says that we can’t go there. She’s the boss. Maybe they’ll come next week. Sometimes when we ask, the nurse won’t tell us much. When we ask Joshua about it, he says, “They went to be with Jesus.” Mrs. Hammermill says in class that Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me.” I figure since me and Frankie and Goldie work with children every Friday and some of them go to be with Jesus, we should know what that means, but we don’t. I would like to be with Jesus, then he could help me figure out some things. Maybe he’s helping the sick kids figure out how to get better. It makes us happy for the sick kids that they’re with Jesus, but it’s sad for us ‘cuz we miss them.

Mrs. Hammermill has lots of good things to teach us about Christmas and shepherds and giving things to Jesus. The other day she told us that Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” I don’t know what that is all about, just like I can’t understand how to give things to Jesus on his birthday, like I got on mine. At the end of class sometimes Mrs. Hammermill will ask, “Murray, do you understand?”


I say, “No, I don’t.” I tell her that all of that thinking and figuring sometimes makes my head hurt. Then I tell her that I figure we have more important things to do so that’s what we do. I tell her that we keep going to work every day. We keep Armstrong Hart Memorial Hospital clean from germs. And on Friday’s, Goldie and Frank and me help the sick kids. At least, I have that part figured out real good!

Then Mrs. Hammermill said something that nobody ever told me before. She said, “Murray, you are a wise man.” I told her that I don’t feel very wise when I can’t figure stuff out. Then she said, “Think about it like this. Goldie, Frank and Murray, all of the work you do for the hospital and for the kids, those are the presents you give to Jesus.” That’s what she said to us in class one day to help us figure out things. So, I keep trying to remember what Mrs. Hammermill says every day when we get on The Camel to go to work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s