1948. East End of London.
My husband Brian told me this story about a long gone Christmas when he was picked to play Joseph in the nativity at school. He must have been about ten years old. The teacher asked the group of about twelve hopeful players if anyone owned a doll to substitute for baby Jesus.
One little girl said, "I have one, Miss. It's very special. An old china one that looks like a baby."
"Bring it along tomorrow."
A few days later, the headmistress announced at assembly of about one hundred children, "Whoever took the doll from the hall, could they please put it back. That doll belonged to a girl whose mother and grandmother were killed by a bomb during the blitz. Her grandmother gave it to her mother, who passed it on to her. The doll was her prized possession as it brought back memories of her loved ones. She's heartbroken and sobbing her eyes out. You've all lost people you knew during the war, so you must take pity on your playmate."
Everyone talked amongst themselves until they were silenced with a call for prayer after which she dismissed the school children.
On the following morning, the teachers found the doll placed on the school assembly hall table. With it, a note said a single word: "Sorry."
Brian heard talk later. The caretaker had let someone inside, but didn't disclose who.
The little girl had the best every Christmas that year.
About six months later, Brian went to the gym on an errand for his teacher. He looked up when the caretaker entered the room, carrying supplies.
They chatted of a bit and Brian asked, "Who took the doll? Boy or girl?"
The caretaker shook his head. "It'll never pass my lips. I made a solemn promise and I'll keep my word."