Everyone who knows about Christmas knows that Santa Claus runs a workshop at the North Pole, where all of the toys for all of the good little boys and girls in the world are made by cheerful elves. But not all of the elves are cheerful. There is one elf, named Chilly, who doesn't know how to love.
Chilly used to try to make toys like the other elves, but they never turned out quite right. When the other elves made dolls, they made pretty dolls with curly, bouncy hair of chestnut, ebony, or spun gold; with rosy, apple-round cheeks; with bright white, straight teeth; and with shining eyes of blue, brown or deep sea green. When Chilly made dolls, they had straight, spiky hair; pale, grey cheeks; muddy eyes; and a mouth that was a thin, crooked line.
When the other elves made toy horses, they had flowing manes and tails, mighty flanks, and saddles and bridles woven with gold and silver. Their race cars had bright paint and cool graphics. Their soldiers had sharp uniforms and impressive tanks and jeeps. Their trumpets and xylophones knew all the best songs, their Play-dough never dried out, and their yo-yo's always came back.
When Chilly made toy horses, they had knobby knees and yellow teeth, and their bridles were twists of twine. His race cars had smeary paint and crooked decals. His soldiers were missing boots, and their tanks and jeeps had bent cannons and dented radiators. His saxophones honked tunelessly, his Play-dough was a solid, brown blob of rock, and his yo-yo's always fell off their strings.
Santa shook his head sadly when he saw Chilly's toys, and said, "I can't give those toys to the good little boys and girls! Maybe we can find something else that Chilly can make." Chilly just shrugged.
The other elves tried to come up with a toy that Chilly could make, but his basketballs all came out flat, and his roller skates never had the right number of wheels. One elf even had the brilliant idea to have Chilly make all of the monster toys for kids that liked scary things, but Chilly's monsters didn't turn out right either: they either didn't have enough teeth, or he put flowers on them instead of tentacles. Poor Chilly just couldn't LOVE enough to make the kinds of toys that Santa could use.
But Santa Claus had other problems to worry about.
Every year, there were more and more children in the world. Santa had lots of helpers, but he was the only one who could deliver the toys on Christmas Eve, and he was starting to have trouble keeping up. He and his eight tiny reindeer flew from sunset in Japan until sunrise in Hawaii, and still just barely had time to visit every single house with children in it!
Finally, one year, Santa had an idea that he thought would save him some time. As you know, Santa takes presents to all of the good boys and girls, but he also takes a lump of coal for all of the naughty boys and girls in the world.
"If I stop taking all of that coal to all of the naughty children, I will have more time to visit the good children!" said Santa Claus. So, that's just what he did.
One year, instead of waking up on Christmas morning to find a lump of coal in their stockings (or under their pillow, if they were really naughty), all of the naughty children found nothing at all. And when they didn't get anything at all, they thought that Santa didn't care about them, so instead of trying to be good the next year, they started behaving even more badly than they had the year before. Some of them were so naughty that they turned the good boys and girls into naughty children, too!
When Santa saw what was happening, he grew very sad. "I will have to start delivering coal again, or I'll run out of good children altogether!" he said. "But how will I ever find the time to lug all of that awful coal AND my wonderful presents around the whole world in one night? I need one of my helpers to come along and deliver it for me." But all of Santa's helpers were too cheerful and kind to ever do something as mean as dropping coal into children's' stockings! How could he ask them to do such a stern thing, when they all had so much love?
Just then, an elf went by with a box full of toys that Chilly had made – a jack-in-the-box without a handle, a pair of bunny slippers with no ears, and a little red wagon with the wheels on the inside – bound for the trash pile. Santa had an idea. He sent for Chilly, and told him to meet him at the reindeer barn. When Chilly got there, Santa greeted him with a "Ho, ho, ho!" and told him, "I've found the perfect job for you, Chilly!"
That Christmas Eve, when Santa Claus got into his magic sleigh with all of the wonderful toys that the elves had made, Chilly climbed into a sleigh, too. Chilly's sleigh had a huge burlap sack filled with coal. And his reindeer was a grumpy old mule deer with one antler. And his sleigh had a bent runner that made it pull to the right. And Chilly went around the whole world with Santa that night, from sunset in Japan to sunrise in Hawaii, delivering coal to all the naughty boys and girls in the world.
Santa was thrilled to have a helper. Chilly was as happy as an elf who cannot love can be. Most important, the naughty children knew that Santa still thought about them, and they started trying to behave properly again.
So, if you get some nice presents this year, you can thank Santa, and pat yourself on the back for being so good all year long. But if you get a lump of coal, you should start doing your homework and picking up your room; and thank Chilly, the elf who could not love for reminding you!