Recently, police officers have become targets of hatred, assaults and even deadly violence. Right now is a perfect time to stop and reflect on the many ways in which police officers and other first responders such as firefighters and EMTs give up their holidays so that we can enjoy ours in safety. Many officers also go above and beyond the call of duty by performing incredible volunteer work. One of those was a listener of mine named Randy, a retired police sergeant from Wyoming. He shared a memory of a time when playing Santa Claus should have come with hazardous duty pay.
"For many years, it was my distinct pleasure to assume the role of 'real Santa' at Christmas time. Though my sleigh was still a black and white sedan, my uniform changed from dark blues to a genuine Santa suit. I appeared on Christmas Eve, right at bedtime, delivering toys to needy children as well as my fellow officers…who had small children. What made this all work was the 'understanding' of the parents to make sure the kids were close to the front window upon my arrival, that they were not allowed out on the porch (where I left their gifts) until I was out of sight, and under NO circumstances were any pets to be loose.
All the parents were following Santa's instructions to the letter...until I got to my Chief's house. I gently placed (his sons') gifts on the porch (and) began to shake the bells, anticipating three squashed, tiny faces peering into the frosty night, trying to catch a glimpse of Santa. To my surprise...No faces. I shook the bells harder and added a hearty ‘HO, HO, HO!’ Still, no faces.
Now in mid-‘HO,’ I heard the front door open and a small dog barking. 'For cryin' out loud,' I muttered, as I jumped toward the driveway. If only I'd remembered the small wire fence surrounding his wife's flower bed. There was no time to pick myself up, as I heard high-pitched giggles floating on the cold night air. A quick double combat roll placed me out of innocent eyes' way, underneath my boss's pickup truck."
Then Randy heard a noise that seemed to be very close: "I smelled the dog food on his breath a scant millisecond before he yapped out the alarm. The 'WHOA!' that jumped from my lips was cut painfully short as I rammed my head into the pickup's driveline... The thought crossed my mind to reach out and pinch off his little windpipe, but that seemed a bit ugly for Christmas Eve."
A pair of cowboy boots suddenly replaced the dog: "I recognized my boss's voice as the words, 'Merry Christmas, heh, heh, heh," settled onto the cold concrete... 'Merry Christmas, Chief,' I replied as a solitary drop of black engine oil struck me dead center in the forehead. 'THANKS FOR NOT TURNING ON THE PORCH LIGHT!'
I continued on my rounds, a black greasy racing stripe running from my white curly beard to my belt, a well-lubricated lump on my forehead. I finished just as a soft snow began to fall, covering everything in a glistening blanket of white. It seemed the perfect punctuation mark to end another Christmas on Patrol."
Thanks again for that great story, Randy. And thanks to all the police officers and other first responders and military members who go above and beyond, and sometimes even roll underneath, to keep us all safe during the holidays and all year ‘round.
This story shows us that Dr. Seuss was right: Christmas is not something that comes from a store. Christmas means a whole lot more.
Tina from California wrote that she was a struggling single mom for many years. She managed to keep a roof over her daughter and son's heads. But there was no money for the Christmas extravagances many families enjoy. They had to be creative and "make do."
Instead of buying cards, they'd call relatives and sing carols to them over the phone. And instead of buying fancy Christmas treats, they'd go into the kitchen and make donuts out of Pillsbury biscuit dough, and sweeten and decorate them with cinnamon and sugar. Tina said that for years, Christmas wasn't a good memory for her. All she remembered about those Christmases was being poor.
Then, Tina wrote:
“When my son was 20, he said 'Mom, remember when we used to make donuts and sing to everyone for Christmas?'
Sulking, I replied, ‘Yeah.’
He said, 'That is one of my BEST Christmases. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love to give.'
I have since changed my opinion...(Now), it is one of my best Christmas memories also. My heart grew 3 sizes that day!...Ever since, I make it a point to make a homemade gift for the people in my family. Last year, I made everyone throw quilts. Christmas is more than a day... It is a memory!”
Thank you, Tina for that precious memory and a valuable lesson for us all. It’s not the presents you spend money on that stay with your kids for a lifetime, it’s your presence spent with them that they’ll cherish forever.