A Sailor's Christmas Gift
Last year at Christmas time my wife，three boys，and I were in France，on our way from Paris to Nice．For five wretched days everything had gone wrong．Our hotels were “tourist traps”；our rented car broke down；we were all restless and irritable in the crowded car．On Christmas Eve，when we checked into a dingy hotel in Nice，there was no Christmas spirit in our hearts．
It was raining and cold when we went out to eat．We found a drab little joint shoddily decorated for the holiday．It smelled greasy．Only five tables in the restaurant were occupied．There were two German couples，two French families，and an American sailor，by himself．In the corner a piano player listlessly played Christmas music．
I was too stubborn and too tired and miserable to leave．I looked around and noticed that the other customers were eating in stony silence．The only person who seemed happy was the American sailor．While eating，he was writing a letter，and a half－smile lighted his face．
My wife ordered our meal in French．The waiter brought us the wrong thing．I scolded my wife for being stupid．She began to cry．The boys defended her，and I felt even worse．
Then，at the table with the French family on our left，the father slapped one of his children for some minor infraction，and the boy began to cry．On our right，the German wife began berating her husband．
All of us were interrupted by an unpleasant blast of old air．Through the front door came an old French flower woman．She wore a dripping，tattered overcoat，and shuffled in on wet，rundown shoes．Carrying her basket of flowers，she went from one table to the other．
"Flowers，monsieur？Only one franc．"
No one bought any．
Wearily she sat down at a table between the sailor and us．To the waiter she said，"A bowl of soup．I haven't sold a flower all afternoon．" To the piano player she said hoarsely，"Can you imagine，Joseph， soup on Christmas Eve？"
He pointed to his empty "tipping plate"．