Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Tipping the Balance—Either Way

According to the Talmud, all of us ought to consider the world as being equally divided into good and evil. That way, we will regard our own actions as important. If we act evilly, we will tip the world onto the side of evil and all Humankind will suffer, but if we perform good deeds, we will tip the world onto the side of good, and all Humankind will benefit.

“Don’t A T’ing Like Dis Make Ya Feel Good?”

Comedians Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor were very giving of their time to good causes. On New Year’s Day of 1943, Mr. Durante met Mr. Cantor while taking a walk. “Eddie,” Mr. Durante said, “I’m just thinkin’. This must be a tough time for the guys over there in that hospital. Here it’s New Year’s Day, they’re sick, some of ’em have amputations. What do ya say we go over and entertain?” The two comedians rehearsed for a short time, then entertained at the hospital from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Afterward, Mr. Durante said hoarsely to Mr. Cantor, “Eddie, tell me, don’t a t’ing like dis make ya feel good?”

Stranded in Kent, Ohio

In Kent, Ohio, early in his vaudeville days, W.C. Fields found himself stranded. (At this time, he was still being victimized by tour managers who would abscond with their performers’ salaries.) He had six dollars, sold his coat for two dollars, then went to the railroad station to inquire about the fare to New York. The railroad agent told him that it was just over $10. (Ten dollars in 1894 was the rough equivalent of over $200 in the year 2000.) “Well, I guess I’m stuck,” Mr. Fields said. “I’ve got eight dollars.” The agent asked if he was an entertainer, and on hearing that Mr. Fields was, he said, “People don’t put much trust in you folks, do they?” (At this time, being an entertainer was about as low on the social scale as a person could be.) “We’re used to it,” Mr. Fields said. The agent then gave Mr. Fields $10 and said, “I’ve always wondered what there was to that story. When you get a little ahead, send this back.” That rare act of kindness impressed Mr. Fields so much that he sat on a bench and cried. Two years later, Mr. Fields was finally able to repay the debt. On Christmas Eve, 1896, he sent $20 to the railroad agent ($10 was for “interest”), then he stood in line at a free soup kitchen for a Christmas dinner. After Mr. Fields became a huge success, he looked up the agent, as did other famous show people who learned what the agent had done for Mr. Fields.

What’s Something Good to Do Around Christmas — or Anytime?

My sister Brenda Kennedy wrote this on a Christmas card to me: “For Christmas this year we each, including the grandkids, filled a bookbag full of water, washcloths, notebook, two pens, two pair of socks, tooth, toothpaste, one roll of toilet paper, Bandaids, Chapstick, granola bars, pencil box filled with candy, tampons, pads and baby wipes. Then we filled the bags up the rest of the way with single bags of chips. Everyone will find a homeless person or someone in need to donate their bag to.” What a great idea!

David Bruce: Christmas Anecdotes

From Bruce Anecdotes

• A woman who wrote anonymously on <Crystal-reflections.com> told about a special Christmas present that she began giving annually because her husband, Mike, hated the commercialization of Christmas. It began when Kevin, her son, was 12 years old, and on a wrestling team. His team wrestled a group of black kids in a church-sponsored inner-city team. The kids wore sneakers so ragged that, the woman wrote, “shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together.” In addition, she wrote, “As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.” Kevin and his team won every match, and Mike pitied the inner-city youth and wished that they could have won one match. Out of this wrestling match, the woman got an idea for her husband’s Christmas present. She wrote, “That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.” For each Christmas afterward, she placed an envelope for another good deed on the Christmas tree. She wrote, “For each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.” When Mike died of cancer, she placed an envelope on the tree, and so did each of their three children. She wrote, “The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.”

• A woman whose calls herself Sunny B online tells what happened in 1987 after she testified in court about her partner, who had made her a victim of domestic abuse. Her partner was sentenced to seven years in prison, and since her partner had been popular in their community, his supporters sent death threats to her. She saved all the money she could to move to a safer location, and she worried because Christmas was coming and it looked as if her two young daughters would have no gifts. However, shortly before Christmas, someone knocked on her door and when she asked who it was, a voice replied, “It’s me: Santa.” Her young daughters were overjoyed, but she was fearful. Sunny B says, “Ever so slowly, I unlatched the chain and opened the door. In front of me stood a Santa, several elves, and wrapped parcels and bags of groceries stretching about 20 feet down the hallway. My daughters wrapped their arms around Santa, and I burst into tears. The elves carried all the packages into our little apartment. We had a very generous Christmas. Inside an envelope was also a certificate from a moving company and $1000 for 1st and last month’s rent toward a new apartment. I cannot tell you how much this meant to my children and [me]. We had a lovely Christmas, moved very shortly thereafter and began a new life. To this day I do not know who those wonderful people were, but I will always be very grateful to them and anyone else involved.” Sunny B and her two daughters were able to move to a safe location and begin their lives anew. Sunny B says, “This was a truly wonderful act of generosity and kindness for which I will be eternally grateful.”

• Following a snowfall of several inches some years ago, Eugene R. Gryniewicz
asked his two sons, Joshua and Christopher, who were then in junior high school, to shovel the sidewalk, steps, and driveway, and then he would give them their allowances. After a while, he checked on them because they had not picked up their allowances, although he knew that they had planned to go to the mall with some friends who were stopping by. Investigating, he discovered that they had shoveled several sidewalks, and not just that of their own family. Indeed, some of their friends had joined them in shoveling sidewalks. However, his investigation showed that they had not approached the home dwellers to negotiate payment. One home was that of an elderly woman who took care of her bedridden nephew. Mr. Gryniewicz returned home, and soon his sons and their friends showed up. He invited everyone in for hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, and one of his sons’ friends showed him a copy of the message that they had been leaving on the doors of the houses whose sidewalks they had shoveled: “Your walk has been shoveled by the Christmas Elves. There is no need to thank us. Do something nice for someone this week. Merry Christmas. The Elves.”

• On Christmas 2009 Colin Farrell paid a visit to ill children in Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin, Ireland. This was not his first visit. A source told The Irish Herald, “He keeps a low profile when he comes in. He doesn’t want photographers or anything. He comes in every Christmas Day and spends a lot of time with the children. He has bought Nintendo DS and Wiis for them and plays with them for a couple of hours. He’s really popular with the staff and really genuine, and the kids really love and appreciate his visit.” Mr. Farrell has a son who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Angelman Syndrome.

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David Bruce: Christmas Anecdotes

In December 2011, several layaway angels appeared at Kmarts and Walmarts across the United States and paid off or paid down the layaways of people they did not even know. At a Kmart in Lafayette, Indiana, almost $4,000 was donated to pay off over 15 layaway accounts. Store manager Vic Sutherland said, “It’s pretty awesome. With the economy the way it is, you wouldn’t expect it.” Shannelle Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corporation (owner of Kmart’s 1,300 stores) said that people have spent more than $412,000 to pay off or pay down more than 1,000 layaway accounts. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee said the same thing is happening at its stores “from coast to coast.” For example, a man donated $11,000 to pay off the accounts of 75 families at a Haleyville, Alabama, Walmart. A man used $9,800 cash to pay off or pay down 63 layaway accounts; he then put $200 cash in a Salvation Army kettle. Assistant store manager Darlene Beverly said about the recipients of the good deed: “Some scream, some holler — with joy, of course. They cry big time.” A Kmart in Omaha, Nebraska, telephoned Lori Stearnes with the good news that someone had paid off the balance on her Kmart layaway account, which included toys and totaled $58. She said, “It was a shock, of course, and then it just made me feel warm and fuzzy.” Ms. Stearnes had set aside money for gifts, but she used it to pay off the layaway accounts of two other people. A man gave $500 to a Charles City, Iowa, Kmart to pay off or pay down the layaway accounts of other people; store manager Katie Cook said, “It was just a give-you-goosebumps kind of feeling.” Melissa Atwood learned that someone had paid off the $120 balance on her Christmas gifts in a layaway at a La Porte, Indiana Kmart; she said, “There is still good will toward men out there.”

On 11 December 2013, a woman walked into an Applebee’s in LaGrange, Kentucky. Waitress Lola Snyder was almost at the end of her shift, but she decided to wait on the woman. Ms. Snyder said, “She asked me what I liked and I recommend[ed] it to her and she was happy about it. And I looked at her and she just looked up at me, and there was a connection and she just had the warmest look and she said, ‘Thank you so much, you have a Merry Christmas.’” The woman’s bill came to $12, but she left a big tip. Ms. Snyder said, “I had to do a double-take because she had written ‘Merry Christmas, God bless you’ and left me a $200 tip. You don’t see the random act of kindness every day and it’s never happened to me.” Ms. Snyder did not get to thank the mystery woman, but she told reporter Tim Elliott at WLKY (Louisville, Kentucky), “I would throw my arms around her, and thank her and tell her that she brought my Christmas spirit to me this year, so I’m very grateful.” She said on TV, “Whoever she is, you know who are, thank you from me and my family.” Ms. Snyder planned to use the money to buy many presents for her 10-year-old son.

On 18 December 2013, Redditor RipRoaringRay posted on Imgur a photograph with this caption: “This man came in to eat alone on Sunday. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever waited on. When he finished his meal, he politely asked for his check and after paying, he quietly slipped out the door. A few minutes later, I opened the book to find this.” The photograph showed this handwritten message on the back of the slip from the receipt roll: “Sometimes when a person dines alone, the waiter treats them as a less-important ticket. You did not do that and I am grateful. Merry Christmas!” Some Redditors have not experienced less-good service while eating alone, but Redditor Irrepressible 87 explained that in some places in the United States, anyway, “It’s math. Since many/most people tip based on percent-value of their ticket, a hundred-dollar ticket from a five-person table earns a bigger tip (theoretically) than the lone dude with the $20 tab. Not always sound math, but easy to reason.”

Guy Lombardo and eight other teenagers, including his brothers, arrived in the United States from Canada with plans to make it big as musicians. They got a small job in Cleveland, Ohio, and then jobs became hard to find. On Christmas Eve, they were unhappy. They had also decided to go home — defeated. But a knock sounded on the door. They opened it, and the parents of all the teenagers were there. The members had been writing letters with fake cheerfulness, and their parents had seen through the fake cheerfulness. Their parents spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with them. A very successful Guy Lombardo wrote much later, “Their very presence, their cheering words, their show of faith in our ability to succeed was exactly the tonic we needed. We decided not to give up, but to keep trying. And the breaks finally came our way.”

On 20 December 2013, Redditor krayzin posted on Imgur a photograph of a note and a small package of chocolate. The photograph had this caption: “I work as a janitor at a large university; this made my day.” The note stated, “Dear Mr. Janitor, Thank you for a clean floor this semester. Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” Redditors made some interesting comments: 1) ihamil64 wrote, “Last year our RA had us each donate $1 to buy one of the janitors a Christmas present. He really deserved it, too; some of the things people left in the halls and bathroom were just disgusting.” 2) Switche wrote, “I can’t even clean my own house without wanting someone to thank me.”

On 26 December 2013, Redditor tompritt81 posted on Imgur a photograph of some socks and a note with this caption: “My grandparents included this note in their Christmas gift to my sister’s fiancé.” This is the note: “Ben, We did not want you to get cold feet before the wedding. Love, Nona & Gramps.”

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David Bruce: Christmas Anecdotes

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On 24 December 2013, Twisted_Villa posted a photograph of a letter and money on Imgur. On Reddit, she explained, “A girl I wasn’t familiar with from my [high] school knocked on my door yesterday afternoon. She said, ‘I wanted to bless you this Christmas. Have a merry Christmas!’ She handed me an envelope containing a letter and $220! I recently got in a car accident and am currently struggling with depression, so it means a lot to me knowing I’m important to some people somewhere. I’m not religious but I still have a lot of respect for whoever thought I deserved this. This is what Christmas spirit looks like.” Redditor Learnincurve commented, “Oh god I’ve seen this before as one of my childhood friends was in a church that did this and it’s sweeter than you think. It’s a thing with certain churches to do a big fund raiser and then they get people (in this case the kids who did the fund raiser) to nominate people to receive gifts or money and the congregation discusses it, if your nominee is chosen you give them the envelope. Basically this girl stood up in front of all her friends, family and peers and gave a speech as to why she felt you deserved it. (this is what is making me well up) Knowing these things I would bet that she said it’s because you were brave and didn’t complain about your injuries. If it were me I would spend some of that at a craft store and make a thank you card as it’s the kind of thing this sort of Christian communities really like. :).” This is what the letter said: “This Christmas, a group of high school students raised money. God laid it on their hearts to give some of it to you! In the envelope you have a 200$ $220. The fundraiser was done to show God’s great love for you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus will always love you. This fundraiser was done in remembrance of Jesus this Christmas season. As you spend this money, remember the reason you received it: Jesus’ birth. He humbly came among us sinners, as a human himself. As his time drew near on the Earth, He told us of eternal salvation in Heaven and He suffered and died so that we may inherit it. We are told ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ and ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’ (Romans 3:23 and Romans 10: 9-10) The gift of 100$ [sic] probably won’t last long, but the gift of eternal salvation from the Lord, as well as the love, security, joy, abundance, and hope that He provides, will last forever! Have a very Merry Christmas! God bless!”

On 20 December 2013, singer Beyoncé Knowles, age 32, visited a Walmart in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where she gave everyone a $50 Walmart gift card. Beyoncé gave away 750 cards — that’s $37,500 worth of gift cards! Each gift card was enclosed in an envelope marked “Happy Holidays from Beyoncé.” At Walmart, she purchased a copy of her own latest release, Beyoncé, and some toys for her 23-month-old daughter: Blue Ivy. Walmart spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said, “It was amazing, quite a scene. Everybody was so excited when she came in, and it’s so great what she did for our customers right before Christmas.” She added, “We were all surprised that she stopped by, but it was great. We’re really glad she dropped in before her concert in Boston. It was a treat.” Phoebe Chase, a customer who received a gift card, took a photograph of Beyoncé in Walmart and posted it on Twitter. Ms. Chase wrote this caption for the photograph: “So I decided to stop at a Walmart in suburban Massachusetts. Who knew I’d run into Beyoncé?” At Walmart, Beyoncé held a little girl and said to her, “Hi, beautiful.”

Occasionally, a UPS-delivered package gets stolen. During the holiday season of 2013, a UPS delivery person in Minnesota delivered a package when no one was home to get it. The UPS delivery person left the package carefully hidden behind a snow shovel that was left outside the door. Redditor SpokeyDokey_ posted a photograph of the snow shovel and package on Imgur with the caption “Good Guy UPS Delivery Man.” Redditor DylanAnderson commented, “Fun fact: if you notice on the package there is the word ‘snow’ on the sticker on the lower left. This is actually the name of the truck; every UPS truck is named something random. I also notice that the package is being received in MN. I’m going to show the driver of this truck this picture and maybe get him a pat on the back from management. They work damn hard during the holidays. Sincerely,
A UPS truck loader in your area.”

In December 2013, an anonymous male Good Samaritan bought the entire kids toy section of the Goodwill at 315 Pavilion Lane in Fort Collins, Colorado. The man has done this for a few years, always around Christmas. Goodwill store manager Todd Wakefield announced over the loudspeaker, “Attention, kids, today only you can take home one toy for free.” Vanessa Clark, Goodwill of Denver’s director of public relations, said about the Good Samaritan, “We applaud this gentleman, and all of our donors and supporters at the holidays and all year long.” Joel Espinosa, age seven, went to the part of the store that had stuffed animals and selected a white Christmas bear to take home. A mother who heard Mr. Wakefield’s announcement on the loudspeaker told her young daughter, “Did you hear that? You get to pick out a toy.” She paused and then added, “Because you’ve been so good today.”

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” — Dale Evans

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” — Dr. Seuss

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