I look forward to getting out the Christmas decorations each year and lovingly placing them throughout the house.
When it comes down to it, my stuff is just stuff. Nothing holds much sentimentality because I have the great blessing of still being able to hold onto my little ones. I’m sure as they grow, I will find more meaning in those handmade ornaments labeled “Jordan, age 4.”
My friend Judy has one very special decoration that I’m sure she finds difficult to put away each year. It’s a snow globe, and it was given to her daughter, Charity, from a man who showed great kindness to both mother and daughter.
Here’s Judy’s story:
“I saw a man who played Santa at West Acres Mall in the 1980s who looked just like the storybook. He had that familiar squint that people get when they smile with their eyes.
“My daughter, Charity, was with her dad that holiday, so I skipped the Santa visit. When the next year rolled around, I went to the mall looking for that particular Santa. I was saddened to learn he had retired.
“When Charity was 5, she had been diagnosed with a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. It was a rough year as we learned about additional health complications. I wanted to make her Christmas really special.
“I did some research and found the name and address of that retired man from the mall. I sent him a letter, telling him I was a struggling single mom and that I couldn’t pay him, but I could make him a good dinner and some really good cookies.
“He wrote back almost immediately saying he would be more than happy to play Santa.
“He came to the door with the few gifts I had left on the step for him to put in his big red bag to deliver to Charity. She was so excited to see him, and after she opened the gifts I had left, he pulled out one more. It was a gift from him. It was a snow globe with a Santa in the middle that played ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.’ Charity’s eyes lit up, and she went to place it in her room.
“That night we formed a friendship with a Santa named Palmer Forness that would last a lifetime. Charity continued to write him, and we would exchange Christmas cards every year.
“We met for lunch in November 1997, two months before Charity died. We talked of old times and laughed. Charity put her arm around him and said, ‘Palmer, I always knew you were the real deal.’
“Charity passed away unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 16. About 750 people were at Charity’s memorial service, and right there in the middle of this big church sat Palmer.
“When it was time to share memories, no one stood up. My heart was aching as I wondered why no one wanted to speak.
“Then, after what felt like an hour, Palmer stood up. He is rather shy by nature, so this was out of character for him. But he stood up and shared about that first Santa visit and many memories after in such detail that I found myself back there again. When he was done, everyone else wanted to share, and it turned out to be a beautiful night of memories.
“So as I’ve done every year since my first encounter with Palmer, I unpack the carefully wrapped Santa music box he had given to Charity years before. I wind it up and place it up high for everyone to see. I guess you could say I’ve always believed in Santa, but now I can say he’s my friend.”
You can learn more about Charity and cardiomyopathy, and visit an online support group for people who have lost loved ones at www.charitymae.com.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.