Once Upon A Time, there was a Spirit that came to live among The People. At least, that’s what The People thought. For often when they would wonder about certain things, they would suddenly know the answer to what they wondered about. It was almost like magic. They would ask a question and the answer would come in such a powerful flash that they felt as if someone else was present — some unseen person who whispered the answer in their ear. But no one ever saw a soul.
It didn’t happen with all of their questions. It seemed to work best when it was a question about needs or the deepest of hearts’ desires. And it almost always seemed to work even better when the questions were about someone else rather than about oneself.
It happened to The Baker one day. At least once a week, The Cobbler would come in for bread. Most times he rushed in with a pleasant hello, bought two loaves, and left hurriedly to return to his shop. But at other times he would enter with a furrowed brow, search very carefully for the largest loaf he could find. He would then take a deep breath before he paid for it, sigh again after the money was paid, and walk slowly out of the bakery, with his head down, never saying a word.
The Baker didn’t pay much attention at first; but when it started to happen a bit more frequently, one day he said to himself, “I wonder why The Cobbler seems so sad whenever he buys only one loaf of bread.” Just as quickly, the answer came to mind, “It’s because that is a time when he must choose bread for his family or leather for his shop.”
The Baker didn’t know why that thought came to mind, but the next time The Cobbler came in and started to carefully survey the loaves, The Baker found himself saying, “Since you are my twentieth customer today, kind sir, you are entitled to two loaves of bread free. Thank you for being such a good customer!”
The Cobbler smiled broadly and thanked the Baker profusely. It was just the blessing he needed to get ahead with his struggling shoe business. Because of The Baker’s kindness, he never again had to sacrifice buying leather to make new shoes so that his family could eat.
The Blacksmith wondered aloud one day about The Farmer who always walked two miles into town and back when he had two perfectly good horses. But the moment he wondered, he suddenly felt that it was because The Farmer’s horses had no shoes to protect their feet against the rough terrain between his farm and the town.
One day he told The Farmer that he had more horseshoes than he could use in a year and asked if The Farmer could use a couple of sets for his horses. “Indeed, I can!” he said. “But I can’t afford them.” Well, to make a long story short, The Blacksmith gave The Farmer two sets of horseshoes and rode out to put them on, too!
It was like that everywhere. The Preacher wondered why The Widow kept to herself so much. And when he suddenly understood that she didn’t think she was worthy of being considered for a new marriage, he was more than happy to court and marry her because he had always greatly admired her kindness, her beauty, and her courage.
The Sheriff wondered why he was always arresting The Barber (who was usually a nice guy) for getting drunk and fighting in the saloon. The answer seemed to be that The Barber had no real friends. The Sheriff took him fishing one Sunday afternoon and they became best friends. For some reason, The Barber never fought in the saloon again after that.
The Seamstress wondered why The Doctor, who was otherwise a man of great taste, often wore clothes that were poorly matched. It occurred to her that the matching clothes might be in need of repair so she offered to do his alterations in return for her rheumatism treatments.
Finally as more and more of these occurrences happened, people started to share their experiences. Finally someone figured out that it started happening when The Gambler came to town. He won often enough; but what was more miraculous was that the person who most needed to win always did when The Gambler was involved in a game of cards or pool or darts.
His name was Nicholas. But the funny thing was that when people figured out that he might have been the start of it all, he disappeared without a trace. No one had any idea where he went. After that, people started calling him The Saint.
Soon, The People started hearing stories from other towns about this strange gambler who was not a gambler at all. And everywhere he went, it seems, people learned to recognize the needs of others that they could help fill and a new spirit of giving was born.
After a long time, there were no more reports of Nicholas The Gambler only reports of increased kindnesses that occurred after his coming. And somehow almost every where, people took to calling him Saint Nicholas although in a lot of places, it sounded more like “Santa Claus.”