For many years, The Athens NEWS ran the feature, “Wise Up!,” in every Monday issue. The author, now retired OU English instructor David Bruce, occasionally submits a special Christmas edition of WiseUp! Which follows...

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 who 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 $1,000 for first 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. Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

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