Celebrating the Gift that keeps on giving

Have you ever met an angel? 
         My grandmother Janina told me a story of an encounter that made me believe in miracles. Now, decades later, stories of old are being turned into my own encounters with good people, many a modern-day angel.
         Grandma’s stories about hospitality were best. Going back in memory, we, as kids, would listen to her vividly describing events that took us back to her own childhood. In her descriptions the small incidents from the “grown-up” world would grow sky-high in the world of children. Sitting at my bedside she would speak about things and happenings that are all too often missing from our fast-paced life of today. With our child-like imagination we could travel into a world where kindness was ever present and it wasn’t difficult to be happy.
         It was wintertime in a small Polish town of Radomsko. Her sister, Maria Stelak*, lived with three children and for them Christmas meant to be celebrated in a traditional Polish fashion: a table full with cuisine typical for the occasion, well festively decorated, and with an abundance of cakes, freshly baked with blue-black poppy seeds, all laced with laughter and wonder.
         On Christmas eve the table was traditionally decorated, with one empty place left for an uninvited guest, a wandering stranger. Year after year Aunt Maria would play being a hostess to someone at this empty table setting ...

         The house was off the beaten tract, right at the edge of a forest. This particular year, instead of guests there was an abundance of snow. The children had their noses glued to frost-covered window glass, waiting for the guests to arrive in the horse-drawn carriages. But, no-one was in sight.
         The evening games were disturbed by a gentle knock on the door. “They are here!” children shouted. When the door opened, the cold weather revealed a stranger. He looked like a beggar.
         Grandma recalled that the stranger was a Jew, his beard white with frost. Under his arm a bundle. His clothes were torn and dirty. A traveler and a stranger, he was least expected on that very night.
         His frozen feet were soon treated to a tin bucket of warm water. Then he ate, like he never saw food before. Soon his face revealed gratitude, which can only adorn a content traveler. He wiped his face and beard off the bread crumps, stood up, bowed, and walked toward the door. In an instant he was gone.
         Hearing the door close, Maria shouted to bid him come back. “We must give him food to take away.”
         “They went outside,” grandma Janina continued. “There was no-one in-sight. Not even footprints in a freshly fallen snow.”
         It all sounded so real. Did she really experience such an awesome encounter?  Later she would tell stories of her other encounters with miracles.
         I keep asking myself, who was the stranger on that Christmas eve in Radomsko? No answer comes, but I am convinced that angels visit good homes.**
         Generosity – a gift that keeps on giving. Christmas is a celebration of the Gift.
         To all my readers - Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year, safe and full of wonder!
*Her son, Jerzy Stelak, pseudonym “Kruk,” was a cousin, and a contemporary of my mother, Alina. He was a WWII partisan, often pictured on his horse, and with a group of comrades roaming the central Poland countryside, creating resistance attacks against the German army.

**A Bible text comes to mind: You welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. [Gal 4:14 NIV]


  1. A beautiful story, thank you for sharing! A very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year to you both! :)

  2. Wonderful story and pictures. It was like I was in that home in Poland with you. Best wishes for a happy holiday season and terrific New Year!

  3. Serdecznie pozdrawiamy z Polski!
    Wnuk Jerzego Stelaka - Rafał - wraz z rodziną :)