"Angelina." God's voice rumbled across the heavens.
Standing on her wee cloud, Angelina shoved back a tangle of hair and squinted. She was only five years old--in angel years--and uncommonly enlightened.
His voice softened to a quiet rushing of wind. "Angelina. I want you to hop down to earth and check on the Parker family."
"You mean that poor family with all those little children; the family who lives way-way out in the country, on that farm that didn't get enough rain on their crops this year--that family?"
Angelina's subtlety was not lost on the Master. "That family. Now scoot."
She swiped her button nose on the sleeve of her robe. "Now? You want me to go now? But it's Christmas Eve."
"I know what day it is, Angelina."
So she straightened her wings, tightened the sash around her waist, tiptoed to the edge of her cloud and jumped off. She streaked through the black velvet night like a shooting star. Shortly she arrived at the Parker farm and, quiet as a snowflake, landed upon a windowsill. She eased up the window, made herself extra small, and slipped in through the crack.
The parlor was empty, lit only by the flames from the fireplace. In a corner of the room stood the Christmas tree. Adorned with holly berries, tassels of winter wheat, and shimmering strands of silk from Indian corn, its branches covered hand-knitted mufflers and mittens, and a muslin doll nestled against a wooden wagon.
Angelina flitted to the topmost bough, and from there could see into the kitchen where the family had just settled down to supper. With their heads bowed, there was Rosemary and William and Jason and Annie. And at the end of the table was four year-old Benjamin.
". . . and we give thanks for our family," the papa was saying. "And for our many blessings. Amen."
Then he passed around thick slices of crusty bread still steaming from the oven. Creamy butter and golden honey sat at each end of the table. The mama poured milk from a heavy crock. The children laughed and the mama and papa looked at each other and smiled.
Benjamin glanced toward the tree, his eyes traveling up to where Angelina sat perched on top. She waved at him. His eyes rounded just before he tucked his shoulders and ducked his head. Angelina lifted off the tree and sailed away.
God was waiting. "Well?"
"They're happy," Angelina said. "In spite of being poor."
"Poor, Angelina? Are they really?"
Angelina shook her head.
God smiled. "I know."
"You already knew. Then why...?"
"Because you didn't." God patted her tussled curls. "What have you learned tonight, Angelina?"
She scrunched her brow and nibbled a knuckle. "That happiness is not things. Happiness is sharing and being with loved ones."
God looked pleased.
"Still," she said, swiping her nose again, "I think next year they'd be a little happier with a bit more rain."
God chuckled. "And you too, eh, Angelina?"
Angelina squiggled her toe into the soft cloud and dimpled a grin.