by Liz Lovick about a Christmas stranger over on Northern Lace.
http://northernlace.wordpress.com/It tells of how a young South African man experienced Christmas in England.
The story gave me "goose-bumps" because I can, just, remember something similar although I did not know the details until much later.
On Christmas Eve one year my grandfather had taken his car to the garage for some reason. He also needed to go into the city (probably for the Christmas shopping he always did at the very last moment!) He took the train.
At the main railway station in the city he was stopped by a young man who looked quite unlike anyone else. In those days anyone who was not white or aboriginal really stood out. Australia still had the appalling "white Australia" policy and, although we did not practice "apartheid" or make people from other cultures unwelcome it was unusual to see them.
But, the young man stopped him and asked for the correct platform for a train to a place which did not exist. He showed my grandfather the address he had been given. It was for a place that did not exist. It was supposed to be a boarding house where the young man could stay for several days. Nobody knew it.
My grandfather shook his head and told the young man to wait. He went to the bank of telephones that existed back then, 'phoned my grandmother and asked if he could bring the stranger home for a meal. He was a Bible student from Tonga. My grandfather would then find somewhere for him to stay. My grandmother promptly said she would put extra food on the table.
Being Christmas my grandmother already had a house full of people. There was no room for the stranger but my grandparents knew they would find something. My grandfather was an elder in the local Presbyterian church. He knew there would be someone who would know of a bed somewhere.
The young man ate with my grandparents. My grandfather made another telephone call and the young man had a bed for the nights he needed it but the family was not able to take them with him for Christmas lunch. No, my grandfather said, he is coming to us for Christmas lunch - and tea.
So we had a stranger among us. I have, as a not quite two year old, a memory of a very big man swinging me up on his shoulders and carrying me. My grandmother told me later that he was "handy with a tea towel".
The relationship was maintained until his death via letters and cards. He worked as a missionary and a teacher. He came back to Australia once when I was twelve, too big to be swung on his shoulders but not too big to feel pride in knowing him.
My grandparents had not told us he was coming, keeping it as a surpise. I was told to take something into the kitchen and there he was doing something.
"You remember?" he asked and hugged me.
Oh yes, how could I forget?