I watched as she filled her plate for the third time. To her credit, she hovered around those items that carried some semblance to a nutritious food group. Those little party plates, though, couldn’t hold much, and she was nibbling as she went. She resumed her seat near the Christmas tree, and I went over to sit next to her.
“Oh, such a busy party!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you around the departments before. What’s your name?”
She flushed as she mumbled through a barbequed meatball. “Miranda.”
“Hi. I’m in the languages department. Are you in History, or…?” I trailed off.
“Um, mostly science.”
“Well, our university is growing all the time,” I held out my hand. “It’s nice to meet you.” I looked down at the tree next to me. “Have you picked out your present yet?”
Her face turned even redder. “Oh, I’m sure there’s nothing with my name on it.”
“Nonsense,” I replied as I reached down to a red envelope. “Here it is right here. Miranda.” I showed her the tag.
She practically choked. “There must be someone else. Really, it’s not me.”
“I don’t know of any other person it could be for.” I looked again at the tag. “Your hands are full. Want me to open it for you?”
Her face registered horror. “No! I mean, please, no. I’m really sure it’s not for me. I’d feel terrible, opening someone else’s present.”
“Look,” I said. “There’s a lottery ticket attached to the name tag. It might be a winner, you know.” I detached a piece of tape. “Let’s see what’s inside.”
Tears sprang to Miranda’s eyes as she stammered. “Please. I know that’s not for me. I’m not even supposed to be here.” She put her plate on the floor below her, and started to pull her coat from the back of the chair. “I’d better go.”
I put my hand on her arm and spoke gently. “I wish you’d stay. We’re glad to have you here. And, I’d really like you to take this gift. Why do you think you shouldn’t be here?”
She hung her head and folded her hands. “I don’t belong here. I’m just a student. I don’t work in any of the departments. I crashed the Christmas party. Please don’t tell anyone. I’ll go; you don’t have to kick me out.”
“I don’t want to kick you out. I’d just as soon refill your plate for you, and chat for a while.” I smiled. “Why did you come?”
Her eyes closed. “It’s so embarrassing.” She shook her head. I waited. My hand, still on her arm, gave her a little squeeze. She sighed. “I was hungry. I came for the food.”
“Ah. A poor college student, are you?” My arm went to stroke her hair. “I’m glad you came, then. We surely have plenty of food. Eat up!”
She looked up. “You don’t mind?”
“Mind?” I chuckled. “I’m pretty sure we have more than enough food here, none of which any of us needs to eat.” I looked at her. “You, however, look like you could use a few more meals.” I opened the present, still in my lap. “Ah, look here.” I held up the gift inside. “Gift cards for WalMart and Red Lobster. What a combo! Here you go.”
She looked uncertain, hesitant. “Those aren’t mine.”
“They do have your name on them. See, I wasn’t kidding. Read for yourself. Someone must have known you were coming. Miranda isn’t a very common name. Please. Take them.”
While she turned to put her coat back on the chair, I reached into my pocket. She caught me as I added three more gift cards to her stack and met my eyes. “I’ve been carrying these,” I explained. “You know how people carry extra gifts around, just in case they run into someone who gives a gift, and you have to give something in return, or someone you forgot? These belong to you, too.” I put them all into her hand.
“That’s very generous. I don’t think I should take all this.”
“Yes, you should. I absolutely know you should.” I looked around. “Every other person in here, including myself, can buy whatever he or she needs at any time. Those gift cards may seem to be generous to you, but to anyone else here, they are surplus. Please take from our excess to fill your need.”
Miranda looked me in the eye and saw that I meant it. “Well, thank you.” She dropped her eyes, then looked at me again. “Really, thank you.”
Later, after Miranda had taken her coat, her gift cards, and a couple of full food containers with her, I was on my way to my office. “Miranda!” I heard and turned. “Miranda.” Lucy smiled at me. “I saw you with that young lady. Entertaining angels again, are you?”
I smiled back. “Oh, maybe. You never know.”
Hebrews 13.1,2: 1 Let brotherly love continue . 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
[This is a work of fiction, based on real-life events.]