Christmas morning 1961 my brother, Don, and I were playing among our generous pile of gifts. My favorite was a magnetic baseball game that allowed one player to “pitch” a pea sized “baseball” with a small magnet to a “batter” who could propel the ball towards a field that offered results ranging from an out to a homer. Eventually Don and I were playing and sometime around the second inning a fight that would be more appropriate for a hockey game broke out.
After several minutes with no sign of resolution my dad decided to intervene. We were directed to move to the kitchen. There we gathered several jars and cans from the pantry and loaded them into two cardboard boxes. We asked no questions and were provided no answers. We then suited up face the cold and climbed into the VW for parts unspecified.
We rode for a good twenty minutes out towards the reservoir north of town and took a back road that turned into a dirt trail. No words were spoken during this trip. We came to a small cottage that was familiar to my dad who often visited many unfortunates as part of his work with the county schools. We left the car and carried the boxes toward the front door. Several red-headed children of all ages began to pour in our direction. There were squeals of excitement. What the heck was going on here?
When I got inside, I remember seeing a woman stirring a large pot on some primitive stove. The children were poorly clad and, considering the fact that the floor had gaps between the floorboards, they had to be cold. They had bad teeth, bare feet, and unkempt hair. But despite all of this they were running about with unrestrained joy that may or may not have been related to the boxes we brought. One lad, who left an indelible image on my mind, ran up to us and said, “Look at what I got for Christmas!” He then popped a single piece of candy into his mouth. The patriarch, Oswald, came up and shook our hands but found no words to speak. I was equally speechless as we made our way out the door and back into the car. During the trip home nothing was said.
There were no more fights over Christmas gifts ever. To this day, as I consider the blessings of Christmas, I can never forget what I experienced that day.