When Tiny Tim’s grandson met The Salvation Army
Once upon a time…
by Robert Docter –
Once upon a time …
… a very young and very small child named Timothy Cratchet had just taken a large mouthful of a delicious Christmas dinner.
Earlier that morning the faces of his mother and siblings revealed depressed spirits that only abject poverty on Christmas day can bring. A few hours later, those same faces were filled with question marks following the unexpected arrival of a fully cooked, large Christmas goose sent from an unknown source.
“Somebody knows how much we needed this,” mother said half to herself. Quickly, she began to prepare a sumptuous meal while hoping that the delivery man didn’t make a mistake.
In the afternoon, Tim’s father arrived from work, somewhat tired and irritated, but suddenly delighted by the smells wafting through the small house. Soon all were seated in a festive atmosphere.
In the midst of father’s attempt to offer a Christmas dinner kind of prayer, a loud pounding on the front door stopped the prayer in mid flight.
Without hesitation, Tim ran to the door and threw it open. Then, bursting into the house, almost knocking Tim over, was his father’s boss with a very red, excited face. Tim’s father, Bob, worked for him as the sole employee of Scrooge and Marley, the accounting firm the boss owned.
It was neither a pleasant nor a rewarding work for Bob, for Ebenezer Scrooge was a very difficult task master.
Bob, his eyes open wide in surprise, blanched with startled fear located deep in the pit of his stomach. Mother, however, leaping to her feet while wiping her hands on her apron, greeted him and quickly set another place at the table.
“We don’t know where the goose came from at all – it just arrived,” Bob stammered.
“Well, harrumph, I know where it came from,” Scrooge said, “I had it sent over myself.”
The family looked at him carefully – not believing their ears.
Tim, however, looked up at him with a big smile and said: “Well – thank you very
“Yes,” Father added, “and welcome to our home.”
Soon, much to the surprise of the entire family, Scrooge, was in an energized and animated mood – really wound up. In an excited voice he told what had happened to him. It seemed that he had undergone a significant personality change as a result of visits from three separate “spirits,” “phantoms,” or “ghosts” who had scared him half to death, and, finally, caused him to straighten up his act. Scrooge was never the same again.
For the next decade he lived a happy, respected, and fulfilling life. Upon his death, he left the accounting firm to his assistant, Bob Cratchet, who changed its name to Scrooge and Cratchet. A few years later, his son, Tim, became a vice president in the highly successful business.
Three generations later, the expanded firm had offices in financial centers throughout the world, and almost all of the Cratchet family had achieved remarkable success. All, that is, except one – “Little” Tim, named after his grandfather
Physically, there was nothing tiny about “Little Tim.”
Six six in his stocking feet – about 260 when he played ball, but now own to about195 – full head of scraggly hair on top of a florid face, lined and mottled with abuse making him appear more 50 than his actual 37 years.
Tim came from a very good family. His brother, Ebenezer, 33, has a Harvard MBA and is a registered CPA. He is the Vice President and lead partner in Scrooge Cratchet USA, one of America’s “big four” accounting firms. Headquartered in London, Scrooge Cratchet and Associates, now managed by his father, also named Ebenezer, was an international firm and had made the Cratchet family very wealthy.
All except Tim.
Ever since he was 15, the family had struggled mightily to get Tim on track. Unfortunately, he had never stopped playing with his chemistry set. Tragically, now, he only experiments on himself, addicted to every drug known to man.
Emotionally, Tim is a self-centered pleasure seeker with serious anger management problems, low self-esteem and is often depressed.
Intellectually, he had remarkable potential in his early years, but, currently, finds himself burdened with many disastrous choices. He attended a number of colleges on athletic scholarships, but has never been able to complete a program and earn a degree.
Socially, his family no longer welcomes him. This is due, primarily, to his long and destructive history of addiction. He carries considerable anger about what he considers family abandonment. He has been divorced twice in marriages that provided three children and lasted less than seven years each. Both divorces included spousal abuse charges. His wives have remarried, and their husbands have adopted the children and no longer bear the Cratchet name.
He has had considerable difficulty with law enforcement and has been arrested a number of times. His longest prison time was nine months with prior six month and four month sentences for public intoxication, fighting and one alleged incident related to theft.
Economically, he’s broke and, when asked about his work, he likes to say that he’s in the “re-cycling and sign writing business.”
With help from his brother, Tim has been in two very expensive medical model, 30 day programs and, upon completion, stayed sober for less than a day. He has never completed any social model program and stated upon leaving that he was “cured.” No more help of this kind is forthcoming.
One night, Tim had passed out from a lengthy “Thunderbird” binge along side a working railway track. He had left his usual inch and a half in the bottom of the bottle so he could “get started” in the morning and was using it as a pillow as he cuddled up to the track.
A fitful sleep came quickly, and with it, his haunting dream of recent nights – another visit by this phantom spirit calling to him – “How many more years are you going to waste? – and then again – “how many … but suddenly, the spirit seemed to blow a very loud horn and command: “roll over – quickly – roll over.”
Tim complied and awoke with a stranger pulling him aside, away from the track, down which sped a morning metro-link commuter.
In the dark, cold hours just before sunrise, locked in a drunken stupor he hadn’t heard the track start singing, had only dreamed the blast of a horn, but someone else had awakened and pulled him away from the track on which he had sprawled.
The stranger pulled him to his feet. Looking down at the track he saw the broken liquor bottle and said: “Looks like Mr. Thunderbird didn’t make it – but I’m sure glad you did.”
Tim was speechless for the first time in his life. Turning, he saw his “helper” – a man about his own age, dressed in a uniform of some kind. “Who are you?” he asked.
“My name’s Pat,” he answered.
“Oh – thought you were a cop. What’s the uniform?”
“The Salvation Army. I’m on ‘track-duty.’”
“Track-duty,” Tim said incredulously.
“Yeah,” Pat answered. “We take turns saving guys like you from trains like that one. I came runnin’ when I saw you there. It’s a good thing you heard me yelling to ‘roll over’ or you’d be fresh meat right now.”
Tim stood there silently – now shocked at his close call – staring at The Salvation Army man, speechless.
“Ya want a cup of coffee?” Pat asked and, hearing no answer, said: “C’mon.”
Together, they walked to a large three story building down the block and went in through the back door just as a man exited with a rolled up sleeping bag.
“What’s up, Jorge?” Pat asked.
“I’m leaving – don’t need this program anymore – slave labor – too much religion, too much AA, I can make it on my own.”
Pat looked at him, remembering what he looked like a month ago. “What are going to do?
“Same as before – dumpster dive and recycle – maybe a little panhandlin’”
Pat looked at him and nodded. “Vaya con dios, amigo. Good luck. Feel free to come back for Sunday chapel.”
Later, seated at a large round table in an even larger dining room, each man warmed his hands on steaming mugs of coffee, lost in his own thoughts.
They were very quiet, Tim, experiencing a moment of sobriety, now recalling his moment on the track – Pat, looking him over wondering about this man’s life.
As they finished their coffee, Pat asked: “We got a good breakfast coming up in about half an hour. You’re invited. Interested?
Tim looked at him, felt the no pressure approach and the power to decide. “Sounds like a good idea – might as well.”
“Good – want to clean up a little before we eat?”
This was something else. What track was he on now? “What’s involved?”
Pat looked at him and smiled. “Anything you want to make it. It’s you’re life.”
That hit home. “Maybe I’ll just wash up a little.”
“Okay – let me show you where.”
Tim had heard of The Salvation Army all his life, but had zero knowledge about what it did or what it ‘saved.’ “What do you people do around here?”
“This is a rehab center – we rehabilitate throw-away stuff and sell it so we can take other throw-away stuff – you know – people who are kind of throwing their own life away – and show them how to stop wasting years and get a new life.”
“Yeah,” Tim said. “I been in a lot of rehabs. I just don’t seem to fit in. Cost my folks a bundle, too – but that’s gone with the wind.”
“Well, in this one, we try to teach people a new life style – one without booze and drugs, and one that helps people make more healthy choices.”
“Choices – I don’t have any – except trying to get enough cash for another twenty dollar bag.”
“You know,” Pat drawled, “that’s true with most of the men here. The way most of them have chosen to live has greatly reduced their choices. This is a place where people live, and those who want to stay sober, begin to learn what it takes. But, like Jorge, they can always choose to leave if this program isn’t working for them.
“How much does it cost?”
“Nothing. You earn your keep here by helping us process the things that people donate.
They’ve gotten rid of whatever it is – we put it in shape, make it useful to others again, and sell it to someone to use. And that’s exactly what happens to the men and women who choose to want to live a sober life.”
Tim sat quietly for a minute then said: “Uh – where’s the men’s room?”
“C’mon, I’ll show you,” Pat said. “Maybe we could get together after breakfast and I’d be glad to show you around if you want to.”
After Pat took Tim on an informative tour of the facility, they sat together and talked. Tim began to understand what this program offered and how it could be helpful. At one point Pat had asked him how many more years he intended to waste with his current life style.
Immediately, Tim was reminded of the words of the phantom apparition he saw in his dream just before the train’s arrival. It shook him visibly. Over twenty years gone – down the drain – never to be recovered. He was forced to examine the question posed by both the spirit and Pat.
Suddenly, he answered: “None!”
Now – two years later, Tim is taking classes in a community college, working regularly at a good job and is still going to meetings and to chapel services at the center. His family knows where he’s now living, and he sees them often. Best of all, he’s still sober.
Tim offered a closing prayer at the Christmas service at the Center and ended it this way: “and in the words of Tiny Tim, God bless us everyone.”