Here were are once again in the final week before Christmas, and those guys who have been watching football and relaxing in their Lazy Boys are out in the mall looking lost and bewildered.
It's time to grab those red boxes with the pretty ribbon, no matter what perfume they contain, and to decide a desktop marble game is just what she wants.
I love to sit in Starbuck's at the shopping center at this time of the year and enjoy the crowds. Everyone is really filled with the spirit, it seems, and dropping more than pennies in the old man's hat.
Which brings to mind my favorite thing to do this time of the year: ring bells for the Salvation Army, my charitable organization of choice because almost everything donated goes directly to the needy.
Standing there in front of Sear's or Nordstrom's in the cold with my little bell beside the red kettle is a warming experience as mothers give change to little ones to deposit, and people who look like they could use some help themselves are dropping a dollar or two.
Now and then, a twenty is pushed into the slot, but the mainstay is a dollar bill – all of which add up to a healthy overall income for the organization.
One of my jobs for the Army is to write the Christmas vignettes for the local newspaper. These are small snips of information about families in need – usually single unemployed mothers with several children. It is my job to review their applications and boil their requests down to 25 words each for publication. Then, members of the community can adopt the families.
Some of the information on the applications is shocking regarding abused wives fleeing from their spouses and children who need coats, underwear, even toilet paper!
Each one of the applications I read make me want to pick up the phone and tell the mom I am heading over to her apartment with the pots and pans, coats, or gas cards she requests. I have to contain myself.
I won't say there isn't a tear shed during the writing of the Christmas vignettes.
We also adopt at least one of the families who we call to find out what they need, and inform them we are bringing Christmas dinner when we deliver the gifts. There's some pretty emotional moments during those calls and visits.
Some of the folks who apply for help are homeless, living in cars or – if they are lucky – crashing on some friend's couch for a few nights. Then it is back into the cold.
Perhaps the most memorable of my sharing moments was when I gave $20 to a fellow on the street who looked pretty desolate. He must have noticed where I worked when I walked back to my office, because a few days later he came into the lobby looking for me.
He wanted to tell me that the money was enough for him to get his driver's license renewed and look for a job again. His eyes were filled with joy, and I felt he considered that $20 as a gift from the Magi in the spirit of O'Henry.
I have lots of those stories that I carry in my heart. They lift the soul and accent the essence of the Christmas spirit.
I recommend the therapy.