Ah, the holidays. Christmas trees and lights and snow and good cheer everywhere. There’s a reason a song calls it the most wonderful time of the year.
And let’s not forget the great holiday TV shows and movies. Frosty and the Grinch, and of course Santa, will make an appearance on everybody’s TV screen between now and Christmas. What’s your favorite Christmas movie or TV show?
Mine has always been the old Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. I don’t care how hard your heart might be the rest of the year, I know that at one time or another you were pulling for George Bailey and hoping he would see his way to the light, no matter how dim life seemed to been for him in Bedford Falls at the time. Tell the truth, at least once you have heard a bell ring and thought an angel just got its wings.
Another great holiday movie that I always enjoy is A Christmas Story. I guess maybe I could always relate to the main character, little Ralphie Parker. I was a bit of a nerd growing up myself. Yeah, I know that’s hard to believe, right? I actually think I remember somebody telling me when I got my first BB gun that I was going to shoot my eye out! Fortunately, as clumsy as I am, I never managed to do that.
But let me tell you another Christmas story about a little boy who knew just what he wanted for Christmas and had his heart set on a special gift.
For most of my son’s formative years I was a single father. It was not a role I ever saw myself in, but that’s the way life turned out, and I did my best. That’s not to say I was a great father by any means, but the two of us muddled through for many years together.
When Travis was about eight or nine he told me for Christmas he wanted a bomber jacket. Those were quite the thing for kids back in the day, and all of his buddies had one. Just like a real World War II pilot’s jacket, they came with a fur collar and patches on them. Every time we went to the mall in Tucson Travis would stop and show me the jacket he wanted. And being a kid, he wasn’t all that subtle about it. He even drew pictures of it and left them on the table for me to notice.
We had decided we were going to go up to the mountains for Christmas, and since we lived in the desert and he didn’t have a warm coat, I decided to get Travis his jacket and give it to him early. He was bouncing with excitement as we drove to the mall.
As always, it was packed that time of year, but we made our way inside and through the crowds to the store and Travis pulled the jacket he wanted from the rack and put it on. I’m telling you, that kid had a smile a mile wide on his face. I paid for it, and even though it wasn’t cold enough to need a jacket, he insisted on wearing it out of the store.
Like they do in many places, this mall had an Angel Tree where shoppers could donate toys and gifts to children whose families were experiencing hard times. One of the local radio stations was doing a remote at the mall and I knew one of the woman DJs, so we stopped to chat with her for a few minutes.
While we talked, Travis was looking at the different lists on paper ornaments that hung on the tree and brought one up to me. “Daddy, look at this,” he said, his voice shaking. I looked at it and it was from a little girl who did not ask for toys. She just wanted shoes and socks for Christmas. My friend for the radio station told me she knew the family’s story and they had definitely experienced some setbacks. The mother had died a few months earlier after a long battle with cancer, and then a fire near Thanksgiving had forced them out of their home. They had lost just about everything and the father and his three kids were staying with relatives while they tried to put their lives back together.
Travis stared at that list and had tears in his eyes when he looked at me and said, “Dad we don’t have to go to the mountains for Christmas. Can we take my coat back and get her some shoes and socks instead?” I’ll tell you right now, I broke down and cried standing there in that mall full of Christmas shoppers. I’m a bit choked up as I write this even now, so many years later. If I ever wondered if I was doing a good job raising my son, that convinced me that while I might makes mistakes along the way, I was doing something right.
We bought that little girl her shoes and socks, and some other stuff, and did the same for her two siblings. And thanks to a high credit limit on my Visa card, Travis still wore his jacket to the mountains.
If you were to see my son now, with his tattoos and shaved head and beard, you might think he’s some kind of tough, scary guy. But the truth is, he’s past 40 and he still has that heart of gold. He kisses his old man on the cheek when he sees me and loves hanging out with me after all these years. He went through some difficult times finding his path in life, but he found it. And that little boy with a kind heart and a compassion for others is still there inside of him. As a dad, I think having a son like that is about the best Christmas present I could ever get.
Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – I’m going to start telling women that I’m available for a limited time only and hope that their shopping instinct kicks in.