Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster
English poet William Wordsworth reminded us, “That best portion of a good man’s life; his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
Remember the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning when you were a youngster?
When you’re a child, you’d get that “tingly, all-over feeling” when you saw that Christmas tree with seemingly endless mounds of gifts beneath it.
With our family Christmas gatherings, we always remembered that and tried to prolong the anticipation just a little long.
The kids used to call it “torture”.
Each daughter and their families celebrate Christmas at their own homes before everyone comes to our home.
I always loved to see the eyes of the grandkids when they came into the living room and saw all the wrapped gifts, not only under, the tree, but around and spilling into the remainder of the room.
The kids ALWAYS knew that it’s “hands off” for those gifts until we ate the Christmas dinner and all the dishes were washed, dried and put away.
The tension and nervous energy coursed through the house like static electricity.
But, we extended the glorious “pain” for those kids by having each one open a gift while everyone else watched.
The squeals and shouts of surprise and sheer joy continued unabated throughout the early afternoon.
With the grandkids getting older, the tradition still continues but no one seems to mind drawing out the process.
As parents, we remember fondly the reaction of our daughters while opening gifts and in recent years, it’s the enjoyment of observing the grandchildren that brings us much joy.
Now, we see them beginning to savor the act of giving as much as receiving…maybe even more.
Had you told me at age 7 that I would, one day, be more excited about giving a gift than receiving one, I would not have believed you.
It was the patron saint of the animals, St. Francis of Assisi who told us, “For it is in giving that we receive”.
It’s why we’ve tried hard to instill that concept of giving with our children and grandchildren.
It’s why I’ve always enjoyed helping organizations such as the Toytime Program in Mansfield, OH and the Firefighters Cheer Fund in Columbus, IN.
Helping both has caused me to have a deeper appreciation for what my wife and I have been blessed with.
It’s also been rewarding to watch the reaction of our children when volunteering and giving.
Former U.S. Army officer and former U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up.”
Here in Columbus, IN, we gather early on a Saturday morning in December and get boxes of toys and gifts loaded into our truck to help the Cheer Fund effort.
My oldest grandson, Logan, was just a tot when he first rode with Grandpa to deliver Christmas goodies to less fortunate families in our community.
One time we took a box to a house and while the Mom was signing for the delivery, we chatted for a few moments.
As I prepared to leave, I couldn’t find my grandson.
We found him in the kitchen, on the floor with the youngsters of the house, and they were playing like they were long-lost buddies.
Another time, years later, we delivered a box to a home and when we entered, grandson Logan noted a big screen TV and a stereo unit there.
I could tell he was bothered…or confused.
When we climbed back in my truck to head to the next delivery, I said, “What’s wrong, buddy?”
“Grandpa, why were we taking toys to that family? They have a bigger and nicer TV and stereo than my family does!”
When I asked if if he noticed where those kids slept, he said, “Oh yeah!”
The youngsters bed were in pulled-out drawers of an old cabinet.
When he asked, “Why is that?” I told him some adults have a different perspective on what’s more important for the home and the children.
“You’re pretty lucky your Mom and Dad care that much for you that you have your own bed and bedroom.”
Life lesson learned.
For many years, we would ring bells for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Christmas campaign.
This “joy of giving” seems to be in the DNA of humans, especially the youngsters.
I’d see them asking for some change so they could put money in that red kettle.
Author and speaker Tony Robbins says, “The secret of living is giving”.
That’s why on a damp, cold December morning, I always feel nice and warm after we make our toy deliveries.
Maybe that’s why American financier John D. Rockefeller, Jr. said, “Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege”.
This Christmas season might have been Grandson Keaton’s last shot at helping me with Cheer Fund deliveries since he’s a high school senior.
But, I have this idea that it wouldn’t take too much arm-twisting to get either Keaton, or his big sister Delaney or his older brother Logan to join me in 2022.
There’s room in my truck for all four of us.
However, the tradition of going out for breakfast after delivering might be a little more costlier with three young adults involved.
We’re long-past the days of Mickey D’s “Happy Meals”!