By Collin Brooks
It was just another assignment, but it was a bold reminder of what the Christmas season is all about.
A frosty morning and smiling faces greeted me at Beeson Hall last week, it was only 8:30 a.m. and a group of people had been there for hours, but it wasn’t visible by their happy faces. Cars were pulling up one-by-one and boxes were being placed wherever there was a free space.
I was only there for a small story and pictures, but I was able to gain so much more.
Jim Hunter was the first person that I spoke with, an elf hat sat atop his head. That was the first sign to let me know that he was an alright guy.
Hunter is the president of the Johnson City Senior Center Foundation and he and his members were putting together Christmas Boxes that consisted of perishable and nonperishable food items along with things that can’t be bought with food stamps; like paper towels and shampoo.
“A lot of these items that we have in here are things that food stamps won’t pay for,” Hunter said, just before mentioning that he had one lady that would use only a drop of shampoo, because that is all that she had and she couldn’t afford to use any more.
The boxes were being delivered to a list of people that meet the criteria of being needy and a committee picked those people. While Hunter and his group were able to prepare 210 boxes thanks to donations, Hunter said that this year there were about 150 people that didn’t make the list because there weren’t enough supplies.
I asked Hunter why he contributed his time, that is when a smile took over his face.
“Are you going out to deliver?” he asked, obviously knowing something I didn’t. I nodded my head yes, but I didn’t know what to expect.
I followed Roger Blakeley and Linda Guess as they made three trips to deliver the boxes to their recipients. However, it wasn’t until after the first delivery that I realized they weren’t just delivering food, they were delivering joy.
That is exactly why Blakeley said he took time out of his day to deliver the boxes.
“To bring happiness and joy to people that wouldn’t have it,” he said, after hand delivering the first box to a complete stranger. “This box is more than just a meal. This is a good, maybe month, supply of food for folks.”
After we both entered our cars, the gentleman who just received the box, smiling from ear-to-ear chased us down. He wanted to make sure the box was for him, not someone else.
But it wasn’t till the next stop, at Berlin Harris’ house that I got a bit choked up. Harris took an extra minute to get to the door, his steps were weighed down with age. But his smile still had its youthful exuberance.
Harris was home alone, with only his two little dogs and his TV with black and white movies to keep him company.
He was happy for company and I was happy for the message that he helped remind me of – Christmas is about helping and providing for others.
As a parent of two little girls, my driving force in life is to provide them with everything that they need — yes, need, not want — I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
For some though, that isn’t a reality.
No matter how hard or long they work, Christmas morning isn’t a reminder of their joyous childhood, it’s a grim reminder that they may be a bill or two behind or that they won’t be able to get their loved ones the things they yearn for. That scenario is a reality for far too many people in our area.
So, I will use this place to tug at your heartstrings, in hopes that you may bring joy to someone outside of your family on Christmas morning.
Think of a young child’s eyes that will light up with the magic of Santa on Christmas morning, just because you and your family donated a few dollars to make that magic come true.
Think of that parent’s relief, knowing that, even though they weren’t able to provide their children with presents, the only present they needed that Christmas was for their child to be happy.
Although the message is often lost — I admit I lose sight of it more often then not — GIVING is what Christmas is about. That giving can come in many forms and it doesn’t always have to be monetary. Your time is just as valuable.