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In this powerful holiday story, a man who lost everything has his whole life changed after a little girl’s letter reminds him of the true meaning of Christmas.Ten years later Big Earl meets Gideon, a seven-year-old leukemia patient who believes with all her heart that "Christmas means never having to ask God how much he loves us." Gideon is determined to reach this lonely and hurting man who hates Christmas — and he is just as determined to rebuff her. It will take a miracle for Earl to come to understand the true meaning of Christmas. But if he can accept what Gideon wants to give him, he might find that he can return the favor with a precious gift of his own.
In Gideon's Gift, Karen Kingsbury reminds us that Christmas is still a time of miraculous possibilities if only we reach out to those around us.
Table of Contents
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The red gloves were all that mattered.
If living on the streets of Portland was a prison, the red gloves were the key. The key that—for a few brief hours—set him free from the lingering stench and hopeless isolation, free from the relentless rain and the tarp-covered shanty.
The key that freed him to relive the life he'd once had. A life he could never have again.
Something about the red gloves took him back and made it all real—their voices, their touch, their warmth as they sat with him around the dinner table each night. Their love. It was as though he'd never lost a bit of it.
As long as he wore the gloves.
Otherwise, the prison would have been unbearable. Because the truth was Earl had lost everything. His life, his hope, his will to live. But when he slipped on the gloves… Ah, when he felt the finely knit wool surround his fingers, Earl still had the one thing that mattered. He still had a family. If only for a few dark hours.
It was the first of November, and the gloves were put away, hidden in the lining of his damp parka. Earl never wore them until after dinner, when he was tucked beneath his plastic roof, anxious to rid himself of another day. He would've loved to wear them all the time, but he didn't dare. They were nice gloves. Handmade. The kind most street people would snatch from a corpse.
Dead or alive, Earl had no intention of losing them.
He shuffled along Martin Luther King Boulevard, staring at the faces that sped past him. He was invisible to them. Completely invisible. He'd figured that much out his first year on the streets. Oh, once in a while they'd toss him a quarter or shout at him: "Get a job, old man!" or "Go back to California!"
But mostly they just ignored him.
The people who passed him were still in the race, still making decisions and meeting deadlines, still believing it could never happen to them. They carried themselves with a sense of self-reliance—a certainty that they were somehow better than him. For most of them, Earl was little more than a nuisance. An unsightly blemish on the streets of their nice city.
Rain began to fall. Small, icy droplets found their way through his hooded parka and danced across his balding head. He didn't mind. He was used to the rain; it fit his mood. The longer he was on the street the more true that became.
He moved along.
The slurred words carried over the traffic. Earl looked up. A black man was weaving along the opposite sidewalk, shouting and waving a bottle of Crown Royal. He was headed for the same place as Earl: the mission.
Rain or shine, there were meals at the mission. All the street people knew it. Earl had seen the black man there a hundred times before, but he couldn't remember his name. Couldn't remember most of their names. They didn't matter to him. Nothing did. Nothing except the red gloves.
The black man waved the bottle again and shot him a toothless grin. "God loves ya, Big Earl!"
Earl looked away. "Leave me alone," he muttered, and pulled his parka tighter around his neck and face. The mission director had given him the coat two years ago. It had served its purpose. The dark-green nylon was brown now, putrid-smelling and sticky with dirt. Earl's whiskers caught in the fibers and made his face itch.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd shaved.
Across the street the black man gave up. He raised his bottle to a group of three animated women with fancy clothes and new umbrellas. "Dinner bell's a callin' me home, ladies!"
The women stopped chatting and formed a tight, nervous cluster. They squeezed by the man, creating as much distance between them as they could. After they'd passed, the black man raised his bottle again. "God loves ya!"
The mission was two blocks up on the right. Behind him, Earl could hear the black man singing, his words running together like gutter water. Earl's cool response hadn't bothered him at all.
"Amazing grace, how sweet da sound…"
Earl narrowed his gaze. Street people wore thick skins. Layers, Earl called it—years of living so far deep inside yourself, nothing could really touch you. Not the weather, not the nervous stares from passersby, not the callous comments from the occasional motorist.
And certainly not anything another street person might say or do.
The mission doors were open. A hapless stream of people mingled among the regulars. Earl rolled his eyes and stared at his boots. When temperatures dropped below fifty, indigents flooded the place. The regulars could barely get a table.
He squeezed his way past the milling newcomers, all of them trying to figure out where the line started and the quickest way to get a hot plate. Up ahead were two empty-eyed drifters—young guys with long hair and years of drug use written on their faces. Earl slid between them, grabbed a plate of food, and headed for his table, a forgotten two-seater off by itself in the far corner of the room.
He looked up and saw D.J. Grange, mission director for the past decade. The man was bundled in his red-plaid jacket, same as always. His eyes were blue. Too blue. And piercing. As though he could see things Earl didn't tell anyone. D.J. was always talking God this and God that. It was amazing, really. After all these years, D.J. still didn't get it.
Earl looked back down at his plate. "I don't come for a sermon. You know that," he mumbled into his instant mashed potatoes.
"We got people praying, Earl." D.J. gripped the nearest chair and leaned closer. Earl could feel the man's smile without looking. "Any requests? Just between us?"
"Yes." Earl set his fork down and shot D.J. the hardest look he could muster. "Leave me alone."
"Fine." D.J. grinned like a shopping-mall Santa Claus. "Let me know if you change your mind." Still smiling, he moved on to the next table.
There was one other chair at Earl's table, but no one took it. There was an unspoken code among street people—sober ones, anyway: "Eyes cast down, don't come around." Earl kept his eyes on his plate, and on this night the code worked. The others would rather stand than share a meal with a man who needed his space.
Besides his appearance would easily detract even the most hardened street people. He didn't look in the mirror often, but when he did, he understood why they kept their distance. It wasn't his scraggly, gray hair or the foul-smelling parka. It was his eyes.
Cold, dead eyes.
The only time he figured his eyes might possibly show signs of life or loneliness was at night. When he wore the red gloves. But then, no one ever saw his eyes during those hours.
He finished his plate, pushed back from the table and headed for the exit. D.J. watched him go, standing guard at the front of the food line. "See you tomorrow, Earl." He waved big. "I'll be praying for you."
Earl didn't turn around. He walked hard and fast out the door into the dark, rainy night. It was colder than before. It worried him a little. Some years, when the first cold night had hit, another street person had swiped his bed or taken off with his tarp. His current tarp hung like a curtain across the outside wall of his home. It was easily the most important part of his physical survival. Small wonder they were taken so often.
He narrowed his eyes and picked up his pace. His back hurt and he felt more miserable than usual. He was anxious for sleep, anxious to shut out the world and everything bad about it.
Anxious for the red gloves.
He'd spent this day like every other day, wandering the alleyways and staring at his feet. He always took his meals at the mission and waited. For sundown, for sleep, for death. Years ago, when he'd first hit the streets, his emotions had been closer to the surface. Sorrow and grief and guilt, fear and loneliness and anxiety. Hourly these would seize him, strangling his battered heart like a vice grip.
But each day on the streets had built in him another layer, separating him from everything he'd ever felt, everything about the man he used to be and the life he used to lead. His emotions were buried deep now, and Earl was sure they'd never surface again. He was a shell—a meaningless, unfeeling shell.
His existence was centered in nothingness and nightfall.
He rounded the corner and through the wet darkness he saw his home. It was barely noticeable, tucked beneath an old wrought-iron stairwell deep in the heart of a forgotten alley. Hanging from seven rusty bolts along the underside of the stairs was the plastic tarp. He lifted the bottom of it off the ground and crawled inside. No matter how wet it was, rain almost never found its way beyond the tarp. His pillow and pile of old blankets were still dry.
He'd been waiting for this moment all day.
His fingers found the zipper in the lining of his parka and lowered it several inches. He tucked his hand inside and found them, right where he'd left them this morning. As soon as he made contact with the soft wool, the layers began to fall away, exposing what was left of his heart.
Carefully he pulled the gloves out and slipped them onto his fingers, one at a time. He stared at them, studied them, remembering the hands that had knit them a lifetime ago. Then he did something that had become part of his routine, something he did every night at this time. He brought his hands to his face and kissed first one woolen palm and then the other.
"Good night, girls." He muttered the words out loud. Then he lay down and covered himself with the tattered blankets. When he was buried far beneath, when the warmth of his body had served to sufficiently warm the place where he slept, he laced his gloved fingers together and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning he was still half given to a wonderful dream when he felt rain on his face. Rain and a stream of light much brighter than usual. With eyes closed, he turned his head from side to side. What was it? Where was the water coming from and why wasn't his tarp working?
He rubbed his fingers together—
—and sat straight up.
"No!" His voice ricocheted off the brick walls of the empty alley.
"Noooo!" He stood up and yelled as loudly as he could—a gut-wrenching, painful cry of the type he hadn't uttered since that awful afternoon five years ago.
His head was spinning. He grabbed at his hair, pulled it until his scalp hurt. It wasn't possible. Yet…
He'd been robbed. In the middle of the night someone had found him sleeping and taken most of what made up his home. His tarp was gone. Most of his blankets, too.
But that wasn't all. They had stolen everything left of his will to live, everything he had to look forward to. Nothing this bad had happened to him since he took to the streets. He shook his head in absolute misery as a driving rain pelted his skin, washing away all that remained of his sleep.
He stared at his hands, his body trembling. The thing he'd feared most of all had finally happened.
The red gloves were gone.
The hardest part was pretending everything was okay.
Brian Mercer held tightly to Gideon's small hand and kept his steps short so she could keep up. With all his heart he hoped this would be the day the doctors looked him in the eye and told him the good news: that his precious eight-year-old daughter was in remission.
- "This may be a small book, but there is nothing little about its message of hope and the miraculous. Give yourself a gift. Read GIDEON'S GIFT."—Robin Lee Hatcher, author of Firstborn
- "Heartrending and gentle....This second chance for two souls will give you goose bumps. Karen Kingsbury delivers!"—Deborah Bedford, author of A Morning like This
- "GIDEON'S GIFT is fabulous! It's a perfect book for the whole family."—June Cotner, author of Christmas Blessings
- "With every Karen Kingsbury novel you need a box of tissues."—Patsy Clairmont, author of All Cracked Up
- "Karen is a gifted writer who confronts the hard issues with truth and sensitivity."—Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love
- On Sale
- Oct 3, 2023
- Page Count
- 160 pages
- Worthy Books