The power of prayer

The power of prayer,

October 1960 One morning, she had only 75 cents in her purse and six hungry babies. Their father had left. The girl was two years old and the boys were between three months and seven years old. Their father had never been more than a threatening presence.

A Christmas Story — The Power of Prayer

They would run away and hide under their beds as soon as they heard the sound of tires screeching on the loose gravel on the way home. However, he gave me $15 a week to buy food. There would be no more beatings now that he had decided to leave, but there would be no more food either.

I didn’t know of any government welfare programs in southern Indiana.

So, I bathed my kids, bleached them until they looked brand new, dressed them in the best homemade clothes I had and then loaded them into the rusty old ’51 Chevy and headed out in search of employment. The seven of us visited all the factories, stores and restaurants in our little town.

We had no luck

I tried to convince anyone who would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything while the kids were crammed in the car and made an effort to remain quiet.

I was required to work. Still, I was unsuccessful. The last place we visited was a restaurant (paradero) called The Big Wheel, which was a few miles out of town.


The owner, a frail woman named “Granny,” looked out the window and noticed all those children in the car. She needed a worker for the night shift, from 11 pm to 7 am.

He offered me 65 cents an hour and I could start that night. I rushed home, called the babysitter and convinced her to stay at my house for a dollar a night. She could stay on the couch and visit me at home in her pajamas.

She thought it was a good deal and agreed. That night I started working on The Big Wheel while the little ones and I knelt to pray. We all thanked God for getting Mom a job at that time.

I sent the babysitter home with her dollar, which accounted for half of my tips for the entire night when I got home in the morning.

The cost of heating was increasing as the weeks went on and the tires on the old Chevy were starting to look more and more like under-inflated balloons as time went on. Before leaving for work and after returning from work, I had to re-inflate the tires.

Four new tires

I discovered four new tires waiting for me on my car one gloomy morning as I drove to it in the parking lot. Had the heavenly angels come down to live in Indiana?

To put the tires on my old car, I had to work out a deal with the local mechanic. I remember it took him a lot less time to put the tires on the old Chevy than it took me to clean out his dingy offices.

Even though I was already working six nights a week versus five, it wasn’t enough. I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids at Christmas.

To make sure there would be toys on Christmas morning, I started painting some old toys with red paint and hid them in the basement. The clothes for the kids were also very well done. The children’s pants, soon to be unwearable, had patches on them.

The night before Christmas, the restaurant’s regulars came in for coffee. Among them were policemen and truck drivers. On the machines were some musicians who had performed there before. Until the wee hours of the morning, the regulars sat around chatting.

As soon as it was time to leave at 7 a.m. to put the toys I had organized under the makeshift tree we had created, I hurried to the car to try to get there before the kids woke up.

I had poor visibility because it was still dark, but I spotted a shadow in the back of the car. There was something there, that was for sure. I peeked out the side window of the car when I arrived.

My mouth dropped open in utter amazement

The trunk of my old Chevy was full of boxes. I rushed to open the door and opened a box. Inside were pants sizes 2 through 10.

The shirts for the pants were in the other. In addition, there were numerous bags of groceries, candy and fruit. There were puddings, cakes, cookies and jellies. There were also cleaning supplies for my house. There were five miniature trucks and a beautiful doll.

On the most unforgettable Christmas day of my life, I watched the sunrise as I made my way home through the deserted streets. I sobbed with gratitude and awe.

I will never forget the smiles on my children’s faces that morning.

Yes, there were angels on that December morning in Indiana. Plus, they were all patrons of the Big Wheel. I believe there are only three ways God can answer prayer:

—Not yet
—I’ve thought of something better for you

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