It was Mrs. Johnson’s second graders turn to do the town’s Christmas play. Mrs. Johnson had just one problem. It was Wally. Wally was big for his age and he had been held back twice in school. As a result, he was larger then any other second grader and the clumsiest of them all. Wally had his heart set on being a shepherd in the Christmas play but Mrs. Johnson could not give such an important role to someone like Wally. So instead she came up with a brilliant idea.
“Wally,” she said, “I have just the part for you. I would like you to be the innkeeper. All you have to do is open the door when Joseph knocks and respond firmly with the words, ‘no room…go away.’ Can you do that Wally?”
Wally practiced it a few times to Mrs. Johnson’s delight. Her planned seemed to be working perfectly. Wally would be involved but not in a critical role. For the next several weeks, Wally practiced his lines everywhere he went. You could see his lips constantly moving as he uttered his lines, ‘no room…go away.’
Finally the night of the big event came. As in past years, the entire town shut down and everyone piled into the school auditorium to watch the second graders put on their show. Mrs. Johnson was nervous but felt she had everything well under control.
At last, Wally’s big cue came. Joseph and Mary slowly and sadly walked up to the inn and Joseph knocked on the door.
‘No room…go away,’ Wally said as he answered the knock.
‘But sir,’ Joseph pleaded.
‘No room…go away,’ Wally firmly replied.
‘But my wife,’ Joseph continued, ‘She’s pregnant and going to have a baby any time?’
‘No room,’ Wally insisted, ‘Go away!’
Right on cue, Joseph and Mary began to walk away from the inn. Mrs. Johnson’s heart skipped a beat. Wally was supposed to close the door and he would be done. But Wally just stood there watching the homeless couple as they walked away from the inn.
What happened next changed the town’s Christmas play drastically. Some people say it was ruined. Others say it was the best Christmas pageant ever. With tears running down his cheeks, Wally cried out,
‘Joseph, Mary, wait! Come back! You can have my room!’