I cannot think about the holidays without reminiscing of the Christmas Eve’s spent at my grandparents. The bountiful meals my grandmothers prepared, the Church pageants, and yes…the multitude of gifts under the trees. And while I will cherish those times, I often think back to an event which touched my heart and perhaps set in motion actions which led to my career with the Chamber today.
It was the Christmas of 1984 and I was Chairman of the Rock Hill Jaycees Christmas Charities project. We were given a list of 30 or so families a little down on their luck that needed a helping hand. This wasn’t your Bing Crosby White Christmas. Rather it was a cold, rainy southern winter evening where you’d much rather be indoors watching television rather than delivering food and toys in the rain. The family that I was given was several miles out of town. A fellow Rock Hill Jaycee named Joe Stinson volunteered to team up with me and we drove for what seemed forever in rural Rock Hill. We traveled down muddy slick roads until at last we ventured on an old house sitting alone in the dark dreary night.
Stepping up on the creaking porch, I pulled back the screen door and knocked on the window pane of the door as Joe began unloading the groceries and toys. A woman came to the door appearing a little puzzled as to her late night visitors. I explained we were from the Jaycees and were there to help. Tears slid down her cheek as she explained she was sure no one was coming and she had told the kids there wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year. The lady said her husband had deserted them and it was just her and the children now.
She wiped back the tears as she talked proudly of her little boys as they could be heard in the background tearing through the house. Eventually, one of the little tikes ran up and threw his arms tightly around his mother’s waist. “Mama, mama, who is that?” he asked looking up at Joe and I. “That’s Santa Clause,” she replied with a bright smile as she rubbed her hand across his head. The lady thanked and hugged us as we made our way to the door. “God bless you both and Merry Christmas,” she said as she closed it gently behind us.
Joe and I drove back to Rock Hill. I turned the radio off and we listened to the sounds of the wipers as they scraped along the windshield. As we neared the city, Joe turned to me and said, “Little brother, we really were…” Joe’s voice choked off as he looked the other way staring back out the passenger window. Joe didn’t need to finish his sentence. We were, that night – we really were.
I will always remember the family gatherings, the wide eyed wonder when I surveyed our den after Santa arrived, and for the reason we all celebrate this most holy time in the first place. And I will also remember the night we brought an evening of happiness to a mother and her children. A mother who thought no one remembered – no one cared. A night when tears were wiped away, hope and promise filled the air, and for a moment in time, we really were.
Merry Christmas and God Bless