Stories personify holiday spirit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2012

During my years as a newspaper reporter, I sometimes heard true, heart-warming Christmas stories that personified the spirit of the holiday.

A man in his 60s told me about the Christmas of 1929 when he was 11 years old. It was hard times, but he had hoped against hope that what he wanted most would be under the tree that Christmas.

When the boy wasn’t helping out around the house, he spent his spare time out in the woods with his gun, hunting. That was why that box of shotgun shells he wanted was so important. But his longed-for present was not under the tree. As the family huddled around the fireplace looking over their few presents, the boy turned his face away from his daddy, hoping he didn’t sense his disappointment.

“But he knew and he got up from his chair and walked to a store a mile and half away and came back with a box of shotgun shells for me. I’ll never forget it,” he said, choking back tears. “Haven’t forgotten the price of those shells either—85 cents a box.”

A friend was one of 12 children, so an older sister assumed a lot of the responsibility raising her brothers and sisters. That sister washed her face and brushed away her tears when she got hurt. She tucked her into bed every night. She also helped see that all the little ones had a visit from Santa every Christmas. My friend has never forgotten that her sister bought the fireworks their daddy always fired on Christmas day. Her most memorable Christmas was when she was five or six. Her daddy shot a Roman candle out over the water. She thought it was stars coming down from Heaven. “Oh, it was so beautiful,” she said.

One Christmas Eve, a nine-year-old girl and her brother broke into tears when their daddy rushed their mother to the hospital with an appendicitis attack. Their beautifully decorated Christmas tree was forgotten when an aunt rushed over and took them to her home. It turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmases of the little girl’s life. Every afternoon her aunt spread a white cloth on her table, brought out a beautiful tea set, and served them tea and crumpets. “Despite my sadness over my mother’s hospitalization, I felt excited and honored by those fancy tea parties,” the now-grown niece explained.

Several years ago, a teenager removed from a troubled home situation found herself in a church-sponsored home for children. Instead of experiencing loneliness and disappointment during the Christmas season, she received numerous gifts. Someone treated her to a shopping trip to select clothing and other items for herself. She enjoyed a Christmas meal in a loving, caring atmosphere.

My mother’s oven failed early one Christmas morning. A neighbor, an electrician, spent several hours repairing it. Because of him, we still enjoyed our Christmas meal.

Loving, caring, and sharing, all personifying the spirit of Christmas.