Harvey was worried. Taking stock of his situation he was running out of food. He had four teenage boys, his brother and himself to feed, and as a single father there is only so much money to go around. Checking his bank account, he had approximately $25 to live on for the next few weeks and in order to get out to his customers in the remote places they sometimes lived (to service their receivers) he would need to fill his fuel tank before he got paid again (which would be after the holidays and the start of the new year.) To top it off, Harvey was not able to get his boys more than one gift each for Christmas this year. He had also missed out on signing up for the local program that ensures needy children get a better Christmas. He had heard about it too late and he was too busy taking care of things for his household and at work to be able to apply on time.
Harvey was preoccupied and did not hear the door knock. His mother must have been let in by one of the boys, because she greeted him, “Harvey, how are things today?” With his frustrations and worries built up as intensely as they were, the words came rushing out in response to the lightly asked question. “Mom, things aren’t looking too well. Christmas is coming, it’s right around the corner actually, and I don’t think I have enough to make it through the week. These kids don’t realize it, but they are literally eating me out of house and home. I’m worried there’s not enough food to make it until I get paid next, and I have little-over twenty dollars to my name. Not only that, but I couldn’t afford more than one gift for each of the boys this year.”
Jennifer stared at her son at a loss for words. She was an assistant manager at her work and doing well enough for herself (considering how expensive her rent and upkeep was), but she was barely able to make ends meet at this time of year. She had four sons, herself, and their families to get gifts for so her funds were spread a tad thin. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have signed you up for Project Elf. The deadline was today at five.” It was half-passed seven in the evening. Harvey stared at her with exasperation, “I realize that mom, I found out about it at work but was busy until after six today servicing a new subscriber.” Jennifer began to fret. They talked for a bit, but Jennifer had errands to run still and couldn’t stay too long.
After a quick visit, Jennifer left her sons’ place. She was too preoccupied to notice the hours flying by and soon found herself worrying as she was settling in at home. It had been a long day and the unfairness of the situation eventually overwhelmed her and she could not help it - she started crying. The tears began to flow and continued until she settled into and fell asleep in bed. Why couldn’t this reality just give her family a break? In her opinion, her grandsons deserved the world and were never allowed their due (and now that she considered it, her sons and herself could do with more as well.) The world over would make you believe that you are the only thing that gets in the way of your success. But sincerely, something seemed to constantly hold her and her family back. Even when they reached a position in their life where they were doing better, what they had was often not enough suit her (or rather, seemed barely enough to get by at times.) Couldn’t the universe give them a break? Not only give them a chance for something better, but let things fall into place so that things just seem to happen and work out wonderfully?
The next morning, while at work, she must have been transmitting her feelings in her demeanor and how she was brooding because her manager (who knew her well) asked what was wrong. Things just came out, and before you knew it, she poured her heart out to her boss. Her boss stared at her compassionately and gave her a hug. “Jennifer, don’t worry too much about it. Greg and I don’t have much, but maybe we can serve as a Secret Santa for Harvey.” The two got to talking, and eventually they came up with a plan. The problem was that, in order to serve as Secret Santa, it was important that whoever got the gifts was not discovered as the giver. To make it so that Harvey would not know things came from Camille and her husband, the gifts would come from Jennifer and the spare bit of food they planned to give would come from Camille’s brother Jake. Jennifer went home from work feeling much better about the world after that.
Jennifer and her family had been there for Camille when her home had burnt down several years back. The blaze was started in a dry creek-bed by an inconsiderate teenager playing with fire. The inferno spread quickly, and Camille got out only just in time as the neighborhood went up in flames (as noted in her rear-view mirror as she was driving down the block with her children and only the clothes on their backs.) Even though she could not do much at that time, Jennifer was a welcome source of emotional support and stepped up at work during that difficult time. The way she figured things; it was only natural that Camille wanted to return the favor whenever possible.
Camille and her family went shopping, and soon had a good assortment of toys for Harvey to put under his tree for his boys. They also got a punching bag that Harvey could hang from the rafters of his home, because they knew he was into martial arts and was a practitioner of armed and unarmed CQC (Close-Quarters Combat) from even before his long years serving as a National Guardsman. Because she knew that Harvey had massive feet, and that his boys took after him, Camille had it in mind to buy them all new shoes. Their feet simply outgrew their shoes by several sizes (often within just half a year) and it was sometimes a struggle to keep them in proper-fitting footwear to accommodate their active lifestyle.
Jennifer got with Camille about taking the lot with her later that night. Camille then approached Jake about taking the three boxes overflowing with food they had gathered and make sure it was all delivered to Harvey. Jake and Harvey shared a passion for the martial arts and were both avid gamers (those played on table-top and computer alike) so the two had cemented their friendship decades before during demonstrations of their martial arts prowess, afternoons spent playing American football (and/or Hackey Sack with a diverse group of friends) and especially from long nights of playing pen-and-paper adventures together. So, considering all that, it was only natural that Jake was amenable to his sister’s request.
Not only amenable, but Jake planned to go a step beyond that. He had a spare turkey in the freezer and quite a bit of food that he had recently bought earlier that week. Even though he was a single father himself, he only had two children to look after and he knew that they could spare it for the sake of someone with a much more pressing need. He gathered up quite a selection of canned goods, boxes of pasta, blocks of cheese, a bag of frozen chicken breasts, a few bags of rice (and a few more of beans), a sack of potatoes, loaves of bread, packs of tortillas and the turkey mentioned earlier. Jake put most of it (except the sack of potatoes and the turkey) into the largest box he could find. The box was so heavy when he was done that he struggled to get it out to his vehicle despite being a well-built and muscular individual. His kids were at their mothers for a bit of Christmas-Eve time, so it was just himself. He went back in for the turkey and potatoes, then took them out to the car as well.
When he got all of it settled into the back seat of his car, Jake drove over to his sisters’ place and let himself in. “Knock knock!” exclaimed Jake as he opened the door. He knew Camille was expecting him and would not mind him letting himself in. “Hello, hello!” Camille said in greeting, “We were just finishing up with everything and were about to call you! Good timing!” Jake grinned and hugged his sister before his littlest niece came over to show her uncle something. Lisa was a little hard to understand (being at that stage where she was very talkative but sometimes hard to follow word-wise) so he reached over affectionately and mussed her hair up. She did not protest the action too much and before her uncle could say anything, she was off and racing around the living room and chasing her pets. Jake glanced sidelong at his sister and grinned, then pointed over to several boxes literally overflowing with food atop her chest-freezer. “These the ones you want me to take over to Harvey?” Camille nodded and replied, “Yep, Greg and I only just got done. Make sure Harvey gets those? Jennifer already took the presents; she’ll be delivering them later tonight.”
After a brief discussion with his sister, Jake excused himself and began taking the boxes out to his car. When he was finished, he bid his sister goodnight and left. In his car, he looked around one last time, decided he had everything he needed and began the five-mile drive south of town to Harvey’s place. The way was slippery with snowy-slush and he was extra cautious pulling onto the small country lane that Harvey lived on. Harvey was the first house on the left, and he pulled into the driveway slowly. Looking around, Jake noted all the snow and a few icy spots leading up to the door. He frowned and considered things for a moment or two. That heavy box was something he would rather have help bringing in, so Jake called Harvey who answered almost immediately.
“Hello?” Harvey stated somewhat like a question. “Hey Harvey, it’s me.” replied Jake, “Can someone come out here and help me bring in some heavy boxes?” The smile was apparent in Harveys’ voice when he answered, “Oh, hey Jake. Sure thing.” Harvey took his mouth from the receiver and shouted, “HEY BOYS, JAKE’S HERE – RUN OUT AND GIVE HIM A HAND!” Jake thanked Harvey and both men hung up. Soon the boys were walking in the snow along the footpath toward Jake’s car. Jake got out of the car and began taking the boxes out and setting them on the roof and atop the trunk. The oldest boy Walter helped Jake carry the heaviest box into the house while the next oldest boy Kirk began bringing in one of the medium-sized boxes. It was not long before all the food was in the house and on the kitchen table. Jake began directing the boys in putting the food away, including the turkey. Jake found out that the family did not have a turkey for their Christmas dinner tomorrow and felt even better about bringing them one.
After most of the food was put away, Harvey got done with something he had been busy with and came out of his bedroom to greet Jake. The two of them struck up a conversation and they caught up with recent events that had been happening with their families. Harvey looked over at the boxes that were more than half-empty now and asked, “What’s all this?” Jake grinned and answered, “Oh, a little birdie informed some of the community that you were in need of a few things, so I got volunteered to bring it all over.” Jake decided to show Harvey everything that had already been put away. After seeing everything that had been brought over, Harvey engaged Jake in their typical “bro-handshake” followed by a quick “bro-hug” (the type that brought their clasped hands between their chests as their other arms were used to perform a partial, and quick, bear-hug.) Harvey looked seriously into Jake’s eyes and smiled brightly, “Seriously, you have no idea how much this helps. Thank you.”
It was at this time that Jennifer knocked at the front door, and when she was let in, she was burdened with quite a few large gift bags that she took directly into Harvey’s room. Harvey and Jake walked from the kitchen into the living room and then followed Jennifer. “There’s more,” she stated as she set down her burden, “I’ll be right back in.” (Yes, you are right. Jake did his best Arnold impression and said, “She’ll be back.”) With that, she went back outside. Before long, she was back in with the rest of the presents and the floor inside Harvey’s room was getting crowded. The look on the faces of Harvey and his kids were best described as beaming before, but the radiance coming from them after Jennifer stopped by was almost beyond description. “What? Where’d all this come from?” Harvey had an expression of amazement. His mother answered with a shrug and a smile.
Nick, Harvey’s brother, came out of the back room at that point. “Oh, hey Jake. Hi mom. What’s up?” He must have been sleeping until right before coming out, because his hair was messed up and his eyes looked a bit bleary. He and Harvey went in together on the home so the two shared the house. Nick had been laid off since November, so he did not really have a set sleep schedule, and he had not been able to pitch in for Christmas the way he usually did because he was only just holding his own to keep up his part of the mortgage. He and his mother struck up a conversation at that point, which lasted only for a short while before Jake managed to pull him away and showcase what he had brought over for all of them to enjoy through the holidays. Harvey pulled the both of them into the bedroom to look over properties in Alaska he had been eyeing. He did not want to move away unless absolutely necessary, but his reasoning was that if there did happen to be some sort of civil war, he wanted to be in as remote a place as he could get his family - somewhere as far away from the conflict as he could get but still be within the United States because he loved his country (and so he could continue serving in the National Guard.)
The world had gone insane since the pandemic, and too many sides were declaring themselves when, in Harvey’s reasoning, we are all Americans, citizens of the United States, and God’s children. Going beyond the borders imposed by nations, we were all brothers and sisters the world over. We all needed to take care of one another - and make an effort to get along as best as possible. There were rumors to the effect that the Chinese Communist Party was buying up politicians, government representatives of all types, news companies and other media outlets in order to control the United States. If that were the case, it would be so discreet as to seem implausible, and many whom caved to the temptation of money would not even realize what source it was that had actually bought them. They would have no clue what they were putting their support toward because the true source would not be open about their background and intentions. Blackmail and extortion were other routes that had been suggested that the C.C.P. was capable of and using to manipulate things from behind the scenes.
Similar rumors persisted that if direct or indirect control were not possible, then as the Roman Empire had been brought down from the inside, so too would be the case for the greatest nation in the world (the only Superpower left over from the previous World War.) All this was possible if the lessons of the past were forgotten. The United States was the only enemy that could ever bring itself down in the end – it would only happen if finished from internal conflict. If a civil war could be ignited, no foreign army would ever have to get within a thousand miles of North America. Cyber-attacks from outside the nation during such a time would guarantee an even greater instability for America. History showed that Empires were brought down from within - not from without (whether due to incompetence, corruption, or both being found and prevalent in the leadership of the nation - including the courts, senate and further up the chain of authority.)
The lessons of the last civil war showed that brothers were pitched against brothers, often friends against friends, fathers were sometimes made to fight against their own sons because they stood for different things and sided with warring Patriots facing off on opposite sides of the battlefield. Families were sundered forever - all because Democracy failed, and strife arose out of differences that were never resolved peaceably (but should have been.) Harvey did not fancy having his family in the thick of things if things were to devolve into that – but at the same time he was not about to leave his friends, family, and long-term romantic partnership over a what-if scenario. He hoped with all his heart that should the rumors be even partly true then plenty of Americans would get informed, open their understanding to the possibility of a hidden agenda happening in the world and hoped just as strongly that the country he loved would not be consumed by similar failures that had plagued nations long dead – all because average citizens were too preoccupied with their own lives to see the bigger picture and caught too far off-guard to make a difference when it was needed.
Harvey pulled his thoughts away from that bleak line of thinking as there was another knock on his door. Greg was let in by one of the boys, and the three men went from the bedroom into the living room to greet the newest addition to this impromptu gathering. Greg had a rather large package that he set down. “Hey, what do you know. It’s Greg!” Harvey was excited because he really liked to talk cards with Greg. As Greg and Harvey launched into their typical discussions when getting together, Jake and Nick got to talking about certain pen-and-paper campaigns that they were both involved in. Harvey’s older boy Walter chimed into the conversation because he had a character in one of those campaigns himself. Apparently, the campaign had progressed since the last time that Jake attended one of the sessions, so he was filled in on the latest happenings there. When he’d heard all about it, he then directed the conversation over to other things. Eventually the topic of discussion revolved around to include beekeeping, and Harvey chimed in and mentioned to Jake that his girlfriend would really appreciate it if Jake kept a beehive on her property (for mutual benefit since she knew Jake wanted more locations to keep his hives and she intended to grow a garden and trees that would need to be pollenated.)
Jake smiled and continued to talk bees and eventually got around to stating that he would really appreciate the chance to house some hives at both their places, he already had some spares, he just had to make it through the winter before he could buy more packages of bees to house in them. Jake glanced at the clock and sighed. Harvey gave a quizzical look to his friend, who announced that he had to be getting home and needed to pick his kids up from their mother’s. Jennifer announced she needed to get home as well. Greg stated he was going to stay and hang out for a bit. Harvey bid Jake farewell, and gave him another bro-hug similar to the one before. After making his other farewells, Jake flashed them all a warm smile, nodded and was out the door. Before long he was driving off into the frosty night, feeling good about making a difference in his small corner of the world. The entire household watched him go, feeling like their faith had been at least partially restored in the world, and that their hopes had been met through kindness.