Editorial: Our challenge: ‘What about December 26th?’
Dec 27, 2013 | 649 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two days after Christmas, all Cleveland and Bradley County residents now face a question that continues to challenge our hearts just as it did years ago when it was asked to any who would hear, “What about December 26th?”

Those who have made this community their home for years, or even decades and perhaps generations, might recognize the thoughtful query as coming from a man who cared for everyone — from the youngest to the oldest. He was the Rev. M.E. Littlefield, founder and pastor of Faith Memorial Church.

This community-minded worship center wasn’t “Brother Littlefield’s” — as he was fondly called by those with the good fortune of knowing him — only gift to humanity. He also founded the original Cleveland Christmas Party for Children, an initiative in which he provided toys and clothing to area children in need. In its infancy, the ministry was nothing fancy. Brother Littlefield delivered the Christmas, and year-round, gifts from the trunk of his car.

He relied on the kindness of the community — close friends, government leaders, civic organizers and strangers — to help support his outreach. In time, the Christmas Party for Children was embraced by the longtime Empty Stocking Fund and the rest is humanitarian history whose Christmas miracle has become a symbol of Cleveland’s support for those in need ... whether local, across jurisdictional lines or across vast oceans.

Although Brother Littlefield was most known for bringing Christmas to those who might never have known it otherwise, it is his simple question that continues to guide our community’s collective conscience.

“What about December 26th?”

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who was a personal friend of the Rev. Littlefield’s, addressed it in his weekly column published in the Dec. 19 edition of this newspaper.

“Those words were uttered to me years ago by the late Rev. M.E. Littlefield, who spent 365 days a year, for over half a century, making Christmas a yearlong project for people in need,” Cleveland’s longtime mayor wrote. “The Rev. Littlefield once reminded me that people have needs all year long, not just at Christmas. And he was so right.”

Rowland, who apologizes to no one for being the most avid cheerleader in these parts for “The City With Spirit,” makes a practice of reminding area residents of ongoing need in this community. Truly, it is a need that exists for 364 additional days of each year.

The mayor is always quick to credit the Faith Memorial Church founder for warming his heart to this reality.

“Thank you Brother Littlefield for reminding me each and every year of this important message,” Rowland’s column told us. “I am so blessed you passed my way ... and your memory and your legacy live on in this community.”

In closing, the Cleveland mayor urged local residents to keep doing what they’re doing; that is, to find ways to help their neighbors every day of every week in every month and throughout each year.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis believes in the same commitment to community and its people. In the county mayor’s weekly column, published in this newspaper on Tuesday, he even suggested ways that local residents can give to others year-round. Many are not a physical gift. Instead, they serve as an outreach to the heart.

For example, the popular mayor suggests developing these 365-day habits: Offer encouraging words for those trying something new; take more time for listening; talk to those regularly whose views or diverse mindsets differ from your own; speak up when rumors are spreading inaccurate information; praise those whose work is too often overlooked; defend those whose character is wrongfully insulted; work for the good of the whole community, not just the wealthy or those with the greatest influence; and get involved for the betterment of all.

A suggestion for the year we especially like from the county mayor is this: Return good for evil.

“What about December 26th?”

Surely, many in our community face needs year-round. While some are tangible, others are not. Some needs can be addressed by a welcoming smile, a warm embrace, a genuine show of concern or a pat on the back.

Gifts can be just as effective when coming from the heart and not just the wallet. But that is not to discount the reality of physical needs, as well.

“What about December 26th?”

It is a legitimate question, one whose answer lies with the caring nature of a community and the willingness by its people to give — materially, emotionally and spiritually — 365 days of year.

A new year awaits, one rife with opportunity.

And until then, five days remain in 2013.

In keeping with Brother Littlefield’s plea, let us remember the spirit of Christmas — not just on this date or that, but on every day of each calendar year.