Tiny lights burned yellow and dim from within the needles of a fallen Yule tree. It lay in the snow where it had crashed, sprawled across the path ahead, branches sagging into the powder, crossed boards of the base sticking up like stiff toes. Several sets of footprints tracked where passersby had walked around or stepped over the tree.
When I paused next to it, falling snow took the opportunity to begin piling up on my bare head. My breath puffed frosty white in the streetlamp light. “Need a hand up?”
“Oh, if you don’t mind,” several tiny voices chorused at once. They jingled like the tongues of a hundred little bells. “Someone thought it funny to knock our tree down and we can’t lift it ourselves.”
I set my bag down into the snow next to me. When I began lifting the tree by its rough trunk, faint little shrieks of surprise tinkled from the branches. The string lights flickered. But once I had the tree upright, they shone bright again, casting a halo of lights that reflected off the snow like golden stars.
“Did no one else offer to help?” I asked the lights. The tree kept trying to fall again when I released it. Upon inspection, I found one of the base boards had snapped.
“We didn’t ask,” the lights replied.
I looped some string from my pack around the tree trunk and the nearby handrail. “That,” I grunted as I tied it off, “should not have mattered.” Now when I straightened, the Yule tree remained upright, proud as the others that lined this footpath.
“Who are you?” the lights chimed. “That we may thank you.”
“No idea,” I replied. I hefted my bag, preparing to move on. “But it doesn’t matter. You’re welcome all the same.”
Happy New Year. Be kind in 2019.