After changing her clothes, she quickly set about packing a bundle of bread and strawberry jam for Hansel to take with him. She added a small packet of tea to the package and tied it with a scarlet ribbon. She stood back from her work and found herself floating back to another kitchen and another winter.
She stood at the kitchen table with Helga’s old apron tied around her small waist. The ribbons of the apron were so long that her father had wrapped them around twice before tying them in the front. Her father stood next to her with his hands on his hips, surveying the table.
“We need several gifts for the neighbors. You keep count, little one, and let us see if we have all that we need.”
Gretel held her hands up and counted on her dimpled fingers as her father recited the many recipients.
“The Millers, the Blacks, the Sutters, the Smiths, the Brandt’s and Old Lady Landers. How many is that, Gretel?”
“Six,” Gretel announced holding up one hand and her thumb.
“Very good. Now, let us divide up what we have here. A loaf of bread, a jar of preserves, a few cookies and some cocoa. Yes, I think that will do. If you will put the food in the center of these circles of fabric here, I will tie the ribbons.”
“Father, what if we run out of food? We only have a few more jars of jam in the pantry. Maybe we should keep this for ourselves. Just in case the winter is long.”
“Oh, dear one, we have what we need and we have our good health to be able to take care of our selves. These families have come upon a hard season in their lives. They need our care. They are deserving of our kindness. Not because they are needy, but because they are our friends.”
She remembered feeling the importance of having been chosen for this task, but she also remembered the warm joy in her heart from this act of giving. Six bundles sitting on the old oak table, all tied with scarlet ribbons ... gifts for those in need, given not out of their own abundance, but from their hearts.
Gretel shook her head, releasing herself from her daydream. She smiled, adjusted the ribbon and went to the front door to call Hansel in for breakfast.