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Building the Perfect Christmas Tree

Every December, Slats Grobnik sells Christmas trees in Chicago. He tells the story of one year when he met a couple that was out on the hunt for just the right tree.

The guy was skinny with a big bulging Adam's apple and a small, receding chin. She was kind of pretty. But the two of them were wearing ragged clothes that looked like they'd come from the Salvation Army store. They didn't have much, it was clear. Grobnik walked along with them as they found most of the trees in his collection far too expensive.

Eventually, they settled on a Scotch pine that was okay on one side, but pretty bare on the other. And then, a little further along, they picked up another tree that was hardly any better—full on one side, Charlie-Brown-scraggly on the other.

A few days later, Slats was out walking on the street when he happened to glance up through a picture window into a ground floor apartment where he saw an absolutely spectacular tree. It was beautiful—full and thick and luscious. Then he was shocked as he saw come into the window view the couple that he'd sold the lousy trees to.

Curiosity got the best of him, so he went up to the door, knocked, and started up a conversation. He had to know where they had gotten that beautiful tree. They told him how they'd come home with the two scraggly trees he'd sold and worked them together where the branches were thin. It had been difficult to get the branches interlaced; they had to use wire to bind the two trunks together. But with time and effort and the grace of God, they found a way to overlap the branches. They were now so thick and rich you could not even see the wires.

"So that's the secret," writes Grobnik. "You take two trees that aren't perfect, that might even be homely, that maybe nobody else would want, but if you put them together just right, then sometimes you can make something really beautiful."

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