Christmas. It's the time of giving, the time of sharing, and the time of miracles. Sometimes something as simple as a returned stuffed animal brings the most amount of joy.
Smyrna resident Lisa Williams' first foray into publishing speaks to the importance of a simple gesture in her children's book, "The Christmas Hippo."
For Williams, the mother of three children, the story of a Christmas miracle started seven years ago when her daughter Gabi was in third grade at Providence Creek Academy. Williams was at a school Christmas party with her daughter, when Gabi persuaded her mother to let a friend spend the night. The plans were made, yet later on Williams remembered the family was going caroling the night Gabi's friend Kayla would be coming over.
"I just thought the more the merrier," Williams said.
So that Thursday, Williams picked up the girls and went caroling in Clayton later in the evening. To Williams' surprise, their arrival at the last house on Main Street garnered a hug between the male homeowner and Kayla. Worried, Williams hoped Kayla knew the man and wasn't hugging a stranger.
"As we were driving home, Kayla said the man was her bus driver. 'He gave me my sister's hippo.' And I thought, 'Wow, that was nice,'" Williams said.
The next day when Kayla's mother arrived, she was amazed the bus driver had found the hippo, which was her younger daughter's favorite stuffed animal. With the family moving in just a few days, the mother explained that they thought the hippo was lost forever.
Later on Williams heard more of the back story on the bus driver's determination to return the hippo.
"He had been cleaning out the bus and found the stuffed animal. He knew who it belonged to so he went to the house, but it was already vacant because the family was moving. So he thought he'd call the Providence Creek office but it was closed for break," Williams said. "He came home and told his wife that the hippo belonged to a little girl dear to his heart and he knew it was this her favorite stuffed animal so the wife told him to pray and five hours later, the girl's older sister is singing dead center in front of the group."
Williams said it was a year later when she told her husband this was such a good God story, she wanted to share it and considered writing a song, but he told her to write a book instead. Six years later, her book has been published through Christian publishing company Westbow.
The book launched Oct. 31 and she even presented the book to the bus driver, Bob Wessell. She surprised him by reading the book at the church he attends, Kenton United Methodist Church. At first he didn't even realize the book was about him, but when he did, Williams said tears ran down his face.
"It was a very emotional morning for me. It was the highlight of this entire thing," Williams said.
Since then, Williams has done several book signings, readings, and radio interviews. Yet watching Wessell's reaction and giving him a copy of the book has proved to be her favorite moment of the experience. Williams also tracked down the two sisters, who now live in Pittsburgh, and gave them copies of the book.
With her first book done, Williams is even considering writing again.
"I feel extremely humbled," Williams said. "What we would consider a small item. I'm humbled God used me in that way to host that girl to sleep over leading to sharing this cool God story."
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