When I read this story, I thought what a powerful reminder that perspective is a wonderful gift. I hope after reading this that we will try to keep our priorities in order. I also hope all of you are enjoying this Christmas Season!
The story is about a man named Phil Garland, his wife, Shirley, and their two children, Polly and Junior. Phil was disgruntled on one particular Christmas Eve because he had just lost his job. His financial situation had been difficult enough even when he was working; now it seemed impossible.
That evening Shirley tried to include Phil in some of the Christmas Eve activities with Polly and Junior, but Phil just grumbled at the price of the gifts. He reminded Shirley that in their difficult financial condition they really couldn’t afford gifts. He said Christmas was overly commercialized anyway. Eventually Shirley helped Polly and Junior get ready for bed. Then, with tears in her eyes she went to her bedroom.
Shirley brought the pliers, and Phil clamped the jaws on the needle protruding from his foot and pulled. Out came half of the needle! He and Shirley discussed the possibility of his going to the hospital that night to have the other half of the needle removed. But Phil assured her it could wait until morning.
The next day, Christmas, Phil drove to the hospital but paused outside the door. Somewhere he had heard that if you get a tiny piece of metal in your body and do not remove it, it could eventually move to one of the vital organs and cause death. For some reason Phil decided to leave the needle fragment in his foot and take the consequences, whatever they may be. He drove home and told Shirley that everything had been taken care of.
From that moment Phil believed his life might end at any time. He really didn’t know if he was going to live from one day to the next, and so he decided he would try to make the most of life each day. That Christmas there was a definite change in Phil. He treated Shirley with much kindness and spent time playing with Polly and Junior. Christmas Day was the first day in a long time that Phil felt truly close to his family.
Tomorrow did come, and Phil Garland again found himself alive. For the second day he was especially considerate to his wife and children, because it might be the last day of his life. Each day thereafter Phil spent more time with Shirley, Polly, and Junior, taking odd jobs daily to support his family.
The story, “Precious Jeopardy,” ended, as it began, on Christmas Eve, one year later. The Garlands’ celebrations contrasted sharply with those of the previous Christmas, because Phil was happy and at peace. He had lived long enough to celebrate Christmas with Shirley and their children.
On Christmas Eve Phil played a few games with the children. Then the family exchanged a few small gifts each had made during the year. During those months Phil had made a beautiful walnut sewing cabinet for Shirley, and she wept at his thoughtfulness when he showed it to her.
As the clock struck midnight, Shirley handed Phil her gift—a small box containing a tiny fragment of steel pierced through red velvet. It was the other half of the needle Phil thought was in his foot. The story ends with Shirley in tears, asking Phil’s forgiveness. She had found the other half of the needle a few days after he had his accident, but had secretly kept it because it had, in a sense, given Phil back to his family.
A story written by Lloyd C. Douglas (U.S. Lutheran clergyman and novelist 1877–1951) entitled “Precious Jeopardy: A Christmas Story.”