Many of the best Christmas stories contain meaningful lessons about the virtues of giving. The following tale, “The Three Skaters,” fits right into this category. The story focuses on three men — a farmer, a baker, and a weaver — who reap the simple and satisfying rewards of giving to the less fortunate. If you want to tap into the true spirit of the Christmas season, read this touching story.
“The Three Skaters”
In the faraway land of Holland, a baker sadly closed up his shop. He carried a worn sack with a few loaves of bread. Not many people came into the bakery that day, because times were hard and people did not have extra money for fresh bread. The baker had to bring home the leftovers so that they would not go to waste.
“Maybe I can make a nice bread pudding with these loaves,” said the baker to himself. “It would be a shame not to use such delicious bread.” The baker walked off into the cold, gray afternoon.
The baker’s mind drifted to visions of his family. He pictured them all warm and snug by the fireplace, waiting for his arrival. He knew his wife would be a little disappointed with the sales at the bakery, but she would take the loaves of bread and cheerfully make the best of them. He smiled beneath the scratchy wool of his scarf. His eyes watered, from the icy wind and from the joy that his family brought to him.
The baker blinked the tears away and kept walking. When he reached the frozen canal, he sat down upon a log and strapped his wooden skates to his feet. As he secured the straps, he looked down the icy canal. The land seemed to stretch out endlessly before him. The air was crisp and the wind was bitter. The baker shivered and pulled his scarf higher on his face.
About a half-mile down the canal, the baker could see the farmer coming toward him. Soon he was joined by the farmer, who was also his neighbor. He, too, carried a sack. The two men greeted each other quietly and began skating together. Their skates soon fell into a rhythm.
“Have you been to the market today?” asked the baker.
The farmer nodded slowly. “Not much luck, though,” he said.
“Same here. I still have a few loaves of bread,” said the baker. He turned his gaze down the canal and continued to skate.
The farmer also could not wait to be home with his family. He looked forward to warming himself by the fire and playing with his children. His youngest child, Lily, had been ill, and the farmer wanted to get her something special at the market. But he did not sell many apples and had to bring a sack of them back home.
“Perhaps a nice apple pie will warm little Lily and make her smile,” said the farmer to himself.
Times were tough for everyone. It was clear that both men did not need to say much to each other. They knew exactly how the other one felt.
As they continued to skate, the clouds grew thicker. The two men wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Soon they came to where another canal met up with theirs. They could see another figure coming toward them from the other canal. With a wave, they saw that it was their friend, the weaver.
“Hello, gentlemen,” said the weaver. He skated right up to the farmer and the baker. They greeted the weaver warmly, and they all began to skate together. Now the sound of the three men’s skates was all that could be heard on the smooth ice of the canal.
The weaver had also come from the market, where he had been trying to sell the beautiful blankets he had woven. Since no one had any extra money to spend, the weaver left the market with all of his blankets and no money. He tried to keep his spirits up, however, by taking pride in knowing that his blankets were beautifully crafted and woven out of love.
“It will be wonderful when we get home and out of the chill,” said the weaver, trying to start some cheerful conversation.
The other two men just nodded their heads in agreement. Their thick scarves and the biting wind made it hard to talk to one another. They continued along the canal in silence. As they passed an abandoned farm, the weaver suddenly stopped skating. He turned his gaze toward the old rundown barn in the middle of the field. He thought he heard an unusual noise.
“Stop! Listen!” the weaver called to his companions.
The farmer and the baker quickly stopped. They returned to the spot where the weaver was standing.
The three men stood on the icy canal, staring at the old barn. Suddenly a slice of sunlight split through the clouds and shone brightly onto the barn. It was a most unusual sight!
“Listen. Do you hear that?” asked the weaver.
The farmer and the baker held their breath and listened. All at once, the three men heard the familiar sound of a baby crying. It seemed to be coming from the old barn, now cast in an eerie glow.
“It sounds like a child,” said the farmer.
“But how could it be? That farm has been abandoned for years,” said the weaver.
“Perhaps a lamb was left in the barn,” said the baker. “It sounds like a lamb.”
The three men heard the sound again and knew in an instant that it was not a lamb. It sounded, most definitely, like a child.
Without another word, all three men stepped off the ice and into the snow. They took off their skates and began walking toward the barn. As they reached the doorway, they could hear the baby’s cries beginning to soften as the gentle sound of a mother’s voice sang a soulful lullaby. The men opened the barn door without knocking. It was as if they knew that it was alright — that whoever was inside wanted them to come in.
Inside the barn, thin beams of sunlight streamed through the holes in the roof and walls. There was not a lamb that had been abandoned by the barn’s owner, but the scene inside the barn was most incredible.
In the center of the barn sat a young woman holding a newborn infant. She was singing the most beautiful and unusual lullaby. She stopped singing as she looked up at the men. Then she smiled.
The men could not help but smile shyly back at the new mother. They were very surprised that anyone was in the abandoned barn, but even more surprised to see a lovely young mother holding a newborn infant. The three men looked around the barn and saw a man raking hay in a stall. The man looked very tired. After a moment, he stopped his chore and addressed the three strangers.
“It’s not much of a home, but we had nowhere else to go,” he explained. “We are on our way to visit relatives. My wife had the baby before we could reach our destination.”
The farmer, the baker, and the weaver all turned back to look at the mother and her newborn baby.
“Are your relatives expecting your arrival?” asked the weaver.
“Yes, but traveling will be difficult now with the infant. We can’t stay here long, though. We have no food, and it is very cold and drafty inside this barn,” the man said. He then finished raking a soft pile of hay and laid down a thin piece of cloth on top. Then the man walked over to the mother, took the baby, and placed it on its makeshift bed.
The mother and father gathered around the child. It was obvious to the men that the young family was happy despite their hardship. The man and woman looked lovingly at each other and their new baby.
The family scene touched the three men and, all at once, they took their items from their sacks and laid them on the floor near the child’s bed. They smiled at the family, then quietly left the drafty barn. Without a word, the farmer, the baker, and the weaver walked through the snow to the edge of the canal. They bent down to put on their skates, then skated off once again.
Now all three of the men’s sacks were empty. They did not seem concerned with coming home empty-handed, however. They felt in their hearts that what they had done was right. Once again, the only sound to be heard was their skates on the ice.
Here’s how “The Three Skaters” ends:
As he skated, the baker thought of his home. The mother and child reminded him of his wife and children waiting to see him walk through the door. He felt blessed knowing that they were safe and warm in their small, but cozy house.
The farmer’s thoughts drifted to his sick daughter. How fragile and tiny she looked when he left her that morning, bundled up in her blanket. He thought of the newborn child and how fragile it looked in its young mother’s arms. He said a blessing for the young family left alone in that old barn.
The weaver’s prayers also went out to the mother and her child. He hoped that his handmade blankets would provide enough warmth and shelter for the family until they could continue on their journey.
The three men were so deep in thought that they did not notice their sacks getting heavier. Slowly each sack was filling, as if someone was dropping items into each one. But the men did not perceive the growing heaviness.
They did notice, however, that they were nearing the village where they all lived. A smile crossed each of their lips, because they knew that they would be home soon. It had been a truly strange, but amazing day.
As they reached the edge of town, the three men stepped off the ice. The crisp snow crunched under their skates. They still did not speak to one another. Each one took off his skates and slung them over his shoulders. Their sacks were quite full by this time, but still not one man made mention of it.
The farmer said good-bye to the baker and the weaver and headed toward his home. The baker and weaver also said their good-byes and parted company. It had been an unusual day, but neither the farmer, the baker, nor the weaver felt like talking. It was as if they all knew what the other one was thinking.
By the time the baker reached his front door, his sack was brimming and very heavy. He walked into his home and found his family just as he had pictured, all huddled around the warmth of the fireplace. When they saw him come through the door, all the children shouted at once, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy’s home!”
His wife walked over to the baker and gave him a warm hug. That is when she noticed the sack he was carrying. “Oh, dear! What a day at the shop!” she said, her eyes wide with wonder.
The baker put down the sack. Immediately cookies and cakes, hams and bread, teas and spices, fruits and vegetables came flooding out! There were also wrapped presents for everyone. The whole family began to cry with delight.
“Oh, Daddy! How wonderful!” cried the baker’s daughter.
“Dear, we are blessed!” cried the baker’s wife.
The baker had no idea how his sack got so full with such wonderful gifts, but he knew it must have something to do with the amazing scene in the barn.
That night the baker and his family had the best dinner ever. Not only did they have enough for that night, but for forty nights after!
When it was time for bed, the baker gathered the children in front of the fire and told them the amazing story of the family in the old barn on the abandoned field. He described how the sunlight broke through the clouds and shone only on the little barn where they
“It was a wonderful sight, indeed!” he told the children.
After he put his family to bed with full bellies and wondrous visions in their heads, the baker sat up and looked out the window. He thought of the farmer and the weaver. He knew that their night was as joyous and amazing as his had been. There was no need to wonder.
For all three men had witnessed the same miracle. They all gave everything they had out of pure generosity and the goodness of their hearts. And even though the winter winds howled outside, it was the warmest night the farmer, the baker, and the weaver had ever had. — Adapted by Lynne Suesse