Gerda is lonely
Gerda is lonely. Really lonely. Not just now and then, but all the time. Gerda doesn't have any relatives who come to visit her. Well, the nursing service comes regularly. But since they're always under stress and there are always other caregivers coming, you can't build up a relationship with them. They don't want to. Too much closeness is not good, they are taught in their training.
Unfortunately, her marriage to her Kurt, who passed away six years ago, remained childless. Nevertheless, she likes to think back to the time with her husband. She not only thinks back fondly, she really longs for it. They were married for almost fifty years and had a great time, traveling and doing a lot of other things. Boredom never came up with Kurt; life with him was the stark opposite of her current life. A life that consists of a modest pension and a small apartment, which they moved into right after their wedding. Throughout the years, Kurt has always been very frugal. Frugal, not stingy. He always used the money he put aside to surprise Gerda with something. Sometimes it was a new piece of furniture, sometimes a spontaneous weekend getaway, sometimes a new dress or a special Christmas gift. Kurt had really done a lot to compensate for his childlessness. Gerda often has to think about that. And she has no idea that six years after his death, Kurt's thriftiness is still helping Gerda to give two little boys an unforgettable Christmas.
Once again everything as before
The apartment is located in the large apartment building in a suburb of Hamburg. At that time it was the first occupancy. A really nice house community. They watched the neighbor's children grow up, got along splendidly with all the neighbors, helped each other wherever they could. And sometimes they celebrated together. That was a really nice time. A lot has changed in this house since then. Neighbors have passed away or moved away, new neighbors have arrived. However, most of them want to be on their own, work or travel a lot. Many are very rarely seen. You don't even get the opportunity to cultivate a good neighborly relationship. Not that Gerda resents her fate. She has learned to be content with little. But in the long run, loneliness becomes a great burden. Especially now at Christmas time. With Kurt, they had always made it really nice. Every year they bought a decent fir tree and decorated it. And Christmas Eve was really festive. Both of them always attached great importance to that. And they always liked to give each other nice Christmas gifts. Oh yes, Gerda sighs at the thought of those days. She looks out of the window. Outside, everything is gray, a light drizzle covers the landscape with a damp veil.
Conditions like on TV
One floor above, a young woman recently moved in, single mother with two really lovely boys. Well-mannered and polite. Of course, they can be noisy and sometimes the apartment above her gets very rowdy. But then Gerda is happy that she at least hears something from another apartment. The other day, she overheard a young mother in the hallway talking to her sons about Christmas. She wasn't consciously listening, but when you're standing in the hallway of a house with a high level of soundproofing, you can hear what's being said in other apartments. And what she now heard from the apartment upstairs made her very sad. Because the young mother was just teaching her two boys that unfortunately there would be no Christmas gifts this year for financial reasons. No Christmas gift for those nice boys? And then she heard only scraps of words like “unfortunately, your father doesn't pay” and “we're just about making ends meet.” When Gerda went back to her apartment, she had to sit down first. No Christmas gift for the children. She had only seen that on the relevant shows on afternoon television. That something like this could be a bitter reality, and then in the same house, was something she had hardly suspected.
What do strangers matter to Gerda?
There wouldn't have been anything like that back then. That is, when the neighborhood was still intact. People knew about the worries of the other families, and they always helped each other out, even financially, when things were really tight. Back then, when Mr. Schröder suddenly fell ill and was unable to work for a long time. The Schröders had financial worries and some of their neighbors gave them some money. Or when Mrs. Otto had to go to the hospital and the neighbors took turns cooking for the family. And also when Mrs. Becker had to spend her first Christmas Eve alone as a widow. It was clear then that Kurt and Gerda invited her over and spent the evening with her and, of course, had a little Christmas gift for her. Today everything has somehow become colder, more anonymous, more impersonal.
In the dresser slumbers a small fortune
A few days before Christmas, Gerda set about cleaning out the small chest of drawers where Kurt had always kept his personal belongings. Until now, she had always resisted doing so, but she had to start sometime. There was the pocket watch he always wore on Sundays – a Christmas gift from Gerda, by the way – the fountain pen he had used to write her first letters back then and which he therefore guarded like the apple of his eye. Several personal mementos that brought tears to her eyes. Now she held his wallet in her hands. She hadn't touched it since his death. Somehow, she had never been able to. And as she slowly opened it, she discovered a small fortune by her standards – 420 euros. A real little treasure had been lying dormant in the dresser for all those years. But she can't really rejoice, the painful memory of her Kurt, who still held this money in his hands, is too great.
Helpfulness instead of prejudice
As she stares at the money in front of her, lost in thought, she hears the boys raging in the apartment above her. And that's when she makes a decision. Or not. Should I really? I don't really know the young woman. And isn't that too encroaching? Should I really interfere? Doesn't she think I'm eavesdropping on her? And haven't I already found enough reasons not to help her anyway? Gerda is uncertain. She has the money that the young woman upstairs could well use to give her boys a wonderful Christmas. And she herself doesn't really need the money, because if she hadn't found it by chance, she wouldn't have had it. Well, she can put some of it aside for herself. But the rest…
Hesitantly, she takes a few bills in her hand and goes to the door. She stops again, “Should I really? But then she makes a move, goes up one floor and rings the doorbell. At first the door opens just a crack, but when the young woman sees that it's the neighbor from downstairs, she invites her in to her modest living room. Gerda fusses a bit and doesn't know exactly how to begin. But at some point she simply tells the story of her Kurt, and the chest of drawers, and the wallet – and that she happened to overhear how her neighbor's finances were doing. And that she was there to help her and her children have a nice Christmas after all.
Gerda's most beautiful Christmas in a long time
You can imagine how the story ends. For Gerda it was the best Christmas in a long time. Because the neighbor, Melanie is her name by the way, did not miss the chance to invite her for Christmas Eve. And not only was she able to fulfill a few wishes for her two sons, but she also used the money to prepare a delicious meal and surprised Gerda with a small gift. She felt so much warmth and gratitude that evening. And then Melanie and Gerda told each other about their lives. At some point Melanie said: “Gerda, you have experienced so much, you really should write a book about your life“. Gerda smiles, she has heard that sentence many times before. And Melanie adds: “I already know how. There's a way to create your own book, on the Internet.” “Oh, child, I have absolutely no idea about that.” Melanie gets her tablet and shows Gerda on the meminto.com website how easy it actually is to create a book about one's own life or other topics. “I'm happy to help you with that,” Melanie says. “After all, you have a good one with me.” And when Gerda sees the prize, she knows why she kept some of Kurt's money back. That same evening, they set up their customer account together at meminto.com and start writing the book about their lives. So Gerda – thanks in part to Kurt's thriftiness – has given herself another wonderful Christmas gift.
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