This is a guest article by author D. Alan Johnson. His latest book Asgaard is set in Africa and looks at the role of Private Military Contractors. David himself is a Military Contractor and has been since 1988. We were talking recently about life in general, and the world as a whole. I invited him to offer his thoughts – Simon

I think it was 2002. That was a tough year for the Johnson family. I was between flying jobs and money was tight. Real tight. Christmas was coming and I couldn’t get presents for anyone on my list.

Without a job, I got to stay at home with my wife instead of being on the road all the time. But I couldn’t get any sleep at night from all the pecans raining down on our tin roof! I was living in Smithville, Texas in a little rent house built in 1898. The house was surrounded with huge pecan trees that blotted out the sun, shading our house from the Texas sun.

But in the fall, the leaves and pecans were a nuisance. I raked leaves daily and picked up several grocery bags full of pecans every week.

Six days before Christmas, I sat on the front porch complaining to my wife of our shortage of cash. Especially heavy was my embarrassment about being unable to send out any presents.

My daughter Carole bounded up the stairs and happily proclaimed that she was going to give pecans to her friends. She planned to crack the pecans, dip them in butter and sugar, roast them and then deliver them in decorative jars.

Like a virus, the idea spread to my wife and me. We cracked pecans day and night, and my wife and Carole would roast them while I continued cracking. We found quart mason jars stored in our old garage. (I have no idea how old those jars were.)

Soon we had a couple of dozen jars of roasted pecan halves sealed in jars with red and green ribbons tied around them. On Christmas Eve we made the rounds of Smithville, giving away all our jars.

We went home and celebrated Christmas. My wife, the magician, had presents for everyone, bought with the money she’d saved over the year. I remember it as one of our best because we worked to give out the pecans.

You would never believe the thank you notes and calls we got from those jars.

“Best Christmas present I received this year,” one said.

I never saw the hand of God while he was pushing us to deliver pecans to widows and preachers, to friends and teachers. But afterward we were thankful. Our lack of cash pulled us together as a family, and God’s bounty of pecans spread His love around Smithville.

D. Alan Johnson

Author of Asgaard, A Novel of Africa

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