LIFE HAPPENS

Spreading the miracle of a little Christmas spirit

Gary Matheny
Posted 1/9/17

Christmas 2016 is in the books and from what I gather, looking at the celebration at our house, it was a good one. Toys, clothing, electronics and gift cards were in abundance.

I don’t know of …

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LIFE HAPPENS

Spreading the miracle of a little Christmas spirit

Posted

Christmas 2016 is in the books and from what I gather, looking at the celebration at our house, it was a good one. Toys, clothing, electronics and gift cards were in abundance.

I don’t know of anyone that doesn't like a gift. The colorful wrapping paper and the big bright bows make every package inviting.

I love to watch people open their packages. The children rip into them as if they are about to run away, while the adults carefully peel each piece of tape away in order to maintain the integrity of the paper so it may be used once more.

People seem to be happy during the holiday that we celebrate as Christmas. Multitudes of people have begun saying “Merry Christmas” again, shoppers were out in full force and the weather, well, it cooperated really well this year.

As we made our way through the highways to our destinations, we encountered travelers from everywhere headed to relatives’ and friends’ homes to celebrate the season. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of traffic that travels our roadways and the traffic jams it creates in Atlanta.

Santa Claus seemed to be everywhere and I am sure he was tired and had a sore lap by the time he was to leave for the North Pole.

At one location, the line to see the jolly ol’ fat man was so long that the kids were crying and being rather restless as Mom and Dad waited patiently for the picture of the little guys in the lap of the man with the beard and red suit.

Memories. That’s what we make this time of the year.

I was raised in a time when we received only a small amount for our Christmas (Santa Claus) and what we got we were very thankful for.

There were four of us boys and in the early ’60s we were not poor, but we didn't have that great big money tree out back that bloomed yearround either. Dad usually worked his job and then had a part-time job to help make ends meet. My mom worked, too, picking up the slack where Dad left off.

I can remember usually getting one really nice gift and then some small inexpensive things that accompanied the nicer one.

Christmas was the only time that we got to see our grandparents. They lived in Northwest Alabama and we usually traveled at night on Christmas Eve so we could arrive early on Christmas morning.

Santa would always receive a telegram asking if he could make a detour to our house early evening on Christmas Eve — the request was by 7 p.m. if possible — so we could leave for Alabama. We then were taken to the movies and out to eat, and when we arrived back home he would have left our Christmas joy in the living room.

Looking back I can see that the old guy was very accommodating.

We then were allowed to pick one thing to take on our trip to see our grandparents to play with till we returned home.

One year I asked for a baseball glove. I may have been the ripe old age of 7, but that’s what I really wanted. In my pile of Christmas cheer there was no baseball glove to be found. Heartbroken, but I sucked it up.

One morning about a week after Christmas I woke up and the glove was by my pillow with a note saying that his workshop had run out of gloves and he was sorry.

A Christmas memory embedded in the brain of this old man that will never be forgotten

However, Christmas is not only about gift-giving, baked cookies, cakes and pies, or Santa and his reindeer. It is about peace, love, and the spirit of thankfulness, forgiveness and giving.

My children, who are grown with families of their own, have made me proud as they show what the spirit of giving is all about.

The way they have elected to serve the community, the less fortunate and human-kind have impressed me. It lets me know that their mother and I have raised them with kind and loving hearts.

Several years ago, our son — who at the time lived in Albany, Ga. — advised us that instead of giving the family gifts that year, they were going to take the money to support a church mission in Africa that needed a well for the village.

Brian has been in the Air Force for 15 years and has been stationed around the U.S. and the world. That in itself has made us one set of proud parents: to know he decided on his own to serve our great country. Now, he wanted to sacrifice the holiday giving to help those who were in need. It was overwhelming.

Our daughter, who partners with her husband in the ministry, at the same time on Christmas Day, as a family, would take baked cookies to the firehalls in Macon to share the love of Christmas with those who had to be away from their families on the holiday.

Now that may not seem like a lot, but it makes one check themselves as to what they did for mankind.

Last year, at Christmas one of my twin granddaughters, 5 at the time, was diagnosed with a mass in her chest near her heart. By the blessing of God it was not malignant or growing, but present in her body and the doctors didn't want to remove it due to the possibility of nerve damage.

As friends and family gathered in the hospital room, she received stuffed animals, cookies and candy canes, lots of candy canes.

So the idea came that they would go from room to room and let Cassie — we call her Gus because that is what she wants to be called — give candy canes to the doctors, nurses and other children who were in the hospital over the holidays.

Gus became a celebrity. Anytime someone came into her room she handed them a candy cane.

This year, a year later, they received from outside sources over 2,000 candy canes for the purpose of delivery to the hospital, nursing homes, and first responder stations for Christmas.

This year my son and his family jumped on the bandwagon and did the same thing in Nashville before Christmas Eve.

I sit back as a proud dad knowing I have children with beautiful hearts.

The lives touched may not be visible today or even tomorrow, but sometime in a lifetime the memory for someone whose life was touched by this gracious act of kindness will be remembered.

How have you spread the spirit of Christmas? A candy cane and a smile can go a long way to touch a troubled heart.

Diana Ross recorded a song in 1970 that pretty much sums up this column:

“Reach out and touch

Somebody's hand;

Make this world a better place

If you can.”

Have a happy, prosperous and blessed 2017!

———

(About the writer: Gary Matheny is retired after a long career in the pharmaceutical industry. Because of his love for the East Tennessee mountains, he and his wife left Macon, Ga., to retire in Cleveland. He is a published author and also writes a popular blog titled “Life Happens.” He loves golf, writing, public speaking and serving as a motivational consultant. Email him at gary.matheny@yahoo.com and follow him at www.garymatheny.net.)

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