Someone recently asked me how long I’ve been appearing in The Times Observer. I told them since April 2007, but my mother reminded me that I first graced the newspaper back in December 1969. Only 21 months old, I was admitted to Warren General Hospital for several weeks because of pneumonia. Any parent who has experienced a hospitalization of a child can relate to my family’s feelings of uncertainty and desire to see me healthy again, as well as the pain of separation and longing to see me back home. The illness definitely put a damper on my family’s holiday cheer.
One morning approaching Christmas my mom got a nice surprise when reading through the Times Observer: Santa Claus had come to visit me in the children’s ward! There was even photographic proof! The funny thing is that I wasn’t intended for the photograph at all but was switched out with another child who proved fussy for the photo session. Somehow this information didn’t make it back to my parents, which made for a pleasant surprise the next morning. I like to think Santa had something to do with this miscommunication because he knew that the gift my mom needed most that Christmas was to be cheered up! And it still cheers her up every December when she puts the picture on display along with her other decorations. (The photographer kindly gave her the original.)
I’d like to offer a belated thanks to St. Nick and the Warren Progressive Merchants who assisted the jolly fellow on his rounds that day in 1969. Although I was too young to remember my hospital stay, it is evident from the photograph how much the visit brightened my holiday.
And a message to YOU who are reading this column right now! Maybe over the last few weeks you tossed some change in a red kettle, donated a winter coat, shopped for a needy child, packet a basket for a shut-in, or visited a nursing home. Much charitable giving precludes meeting with the recipient face-to-face. So on behalf of all those recipients, I’d like to say THANK YOU. I have been privileged both in human services and ministry to often be the transition point between the giver and receiver. I have witnessed first hand how often “the gift needed most” ends up with the right person at the right time. Thanks again for embodying the spirit of Christmas!