For many Decembers, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood in the
Friends Meeting Schoolhouse in Downingtown. The decorations had been
made and placed on the tree by the Meeting children. Besides the red and
green paper chains, and the straw sunbursts and the paper-cut
snowflakes, the children strung popcorn and cranberries and wove them
through the green branches. When the tree was finished, all the meeting
people would say "Ooooooo" and they would say "Ahhh" and
everyone would sing "Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how
lovely are your branches."
everyone went home, the mouse community who lived in the walls of the
schoolhouse, came out and they would say "Ooooooo" and they would
say "Ahhh" and they would sing "Oh Christmas Tree, oh
Christmas tree, how luscious are your branches."
one year in late November all was changed: On a Sunday after the Meeting
People were gone, Old Mouse stood up on the piano stool and said,
"In the manner of Friends, I am requesting a Downingtown Mousely
Meeting of Business to begin."
meeting began with silence and then Old Mouse said, "We have been
well-provided for by the Friendly People. There are always crumbs on the
floor after Meeting lunch each month, and from time to time the waste
baskets contain broken crackers. Yes, these Friends are indeed generous
to all manner of beings. Why they even gather the crumbs from the tables
with a wet cloth and wash them down the sink...I wonder who they are
feeding down there.”
Mouse went on: "It is getting near Christmas again. Each year we
have heard the Friendly People tell the Friendly Children that Christmas
is a time to share what we have, and I suggest we share what we have
of questions came all at once. "What do we have?" and
"Whom can we share with?" Questions like that.
Mouse had answers. "You know how the Friendly Children always bring
in a big tree and put strings of popcorn on it for us? Well, let me
was again interrupted. A young mouse asked, "Why do they put the
popcorn on a tree? Why don't they just put the popcorn on the floor for
Mouse explained patiently, "They put it on a tree so we can have
the fun of bouncing on the branches as we eat."
Mouse said, "Oh, the Friendly Children have thought of
Mouse continued, "Now this is my idea: We shall share our popcorn
with our friends, the birds."
said, "I don't know about that. I've never seen any birds in here.
I don't think they can crawl under doors the way we can."
too, have thought of everything", said Old Mouse. My plan is to
make sure the tree is put outside this year."
can we do that?" asked another mouse.
Mouse said, "Well, you know the Friendly Children like us but the
big people don't. I'm not sure they even know the children decorate the
tree for us, so what we have to do is let the big people see us and they
will insist the tree be put outside."
asked, "Suppose they say the children can't have any tree at
Mouse answered, "The Friendly People do not like to disappoint
their children. They'll let them have a tree."
Mouse had been quiet since Old Mouse had said the big people didn't like
mice, and he began to cry. "I'm afraid if the Friendly People see
us they will kill us."
no", Old Mouse said gently. These Friendly People revere life and
might chase us, but they won't kill us."
Mouse said, "I've seen the Friendly Children hit or push."
"Well, that's not killing," said Old Mouse.
that's not friendly," said Young Mouse.
Mouse said, "And besides, they wouldn't do that so close to
Christmas they act differently."
not nice," said Young Mouse.
it is. They act nicer."
why do they act nice at Christmas?" Young Mouse wanted to know.
easier," said Old Mouse.
it's Christmas," Old Mouse explained.
Young Mouse was confused by now and started to cry. "I'm
afraid," he said.
mouse said, "What do you mean, ‘you are afraid’? Are you a
mouse or a man?"
Mouse interrupted, "Sharing is no good unless we really want to do
it, and it is no good if it makes someone unhappy. Young Mouse is unhappy
so maybe it isn't a good idea after all."
Mouse said, "But it is a good idea. I love the birds. They share
berries with us outside in the summertime. I really want to share our
tree with them. But couldn't we find another way to get the Friendly
People to put the tree outside?"
skinny mouse had an idea and decided to share it. He stood up and said:
"One of the Friendly Children smiled at me one day when I was
peeking around a chair. A Big Person came along, and so that I would not
be seen, the Friendly Child scooped me up and put me in his pocket. Ever
since that day I jumped in the pocket whenever the child was there. This
child talks to me and now that I don't feel so shy, I talk
back." Skinny Mouse looked down, and continued, "I know there
is a Mouse Testimony that advises us that it is unwise to talk to
Mouse smiled and said, "We all have a little trouble keeping the
testimonies from time to time. And perhaps this testimony needs
revising. Well, our problem is solved. Skinny Mouse will tell the
Friendly Child that this year it would be nice to put the tree outside
for the birds. For some unexplainable reason Friendly People, even
though they don't like mice, love birds!
Back to Friends' Writings