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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
Viewed: 44 times
Comments: 1 comment

Born in Germantown Pennsylvania, Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American author, clergyman, and English literature professor. He authored numerous books of poetry and devotion. Among his popular writings are two Christmas stories: The Other Wise Man (1896) and The First Christmas Tree (1897). One of his more notable books was,The Spirit of Christmas (1905); a collection of Christmas themed writings that includes short stories, prayers, and the following sermon entitled, Christmas-Giving And Christmas-Living.
 
Christmas-Giving And Christmas-Living
By Henry van Dyke
The custom of exchanging presents on a certain day in the year is very much older than Christmas, and means very much less. It has obtained in almost all ages of the world, and among many different nations. It is a fine thing or a foolish thing, as the case may be; an encouragement to friendliness, or a tribute to fashion; an expression of good nature, or a bid for favour; an outgoing of generosity, or a disguise of greed; a cheerful old custom, or a futile old farce, according to the spirit which animates it and the form which it takes.
But when this ancient and variously interpreted tradition of a day of gifts was transferred to the Christmas season, it was brought into vital contact with an idea which must transform it, and with an example which must lift it up to a higher plane. The example is the life of Jesus. The idea is unselfish interest in the happiness of others.
The great gift of Jesus to the world was himself. He lived with and for men. He kept back nothing. In every particular and personal gift that he made to certain people there was something of himself that made it precious.
For example, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, it was his thought for the feelings of the giver of the feast, and his wish that every guest should find due entertainment, that lent the flavour of a heavenly hospitality to the wine which he provided.
When he gave bread and fish to the hungry multitude who had followed him out among the hills by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were refreshed and strengthened by the sense of the personal care of Jesus for their welfare, as much as by the food which he bestowed upon them. It was another illustration of the sweetness of "a dinner of herbs, where love is."
The gifts of healing which he conferred upon many different kinds of sufferers were, in every case, evidences that Jesus was willing to give something of himself, his thought, his sympathy, his vital power, to the men and women among whom he lived. Once, when a paralytic was brought to Jesus on a bed, he surprised everybody, and offended many, by giving the poor wretch the pardon of his sins, before he gave new life to his body. That was just because Jesus thought before he gave; because he desired to satisfy the deepest need; because in fact he gave something of himself in every gift. All true Christmas-giving ought to be after this pattern.
Not that it must all be solemn and serious. For the most part it deals with little wants, little joys, little tokens of friendly feeling. But the feeling must be more than the token; else the gift does not really belong to Christmas.
It takes time and effort and unselfish expenditure of strength to make gifts in this way. But it is the only way that fits the season.
The finest Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries the most love.
But how seldom Christmas comes- only once a year; and how soon it is over-a night and a day! If that is the whole of it, it seems not much more durable than the little toys that one buys of a fakir on the street-corner. They run for an hour, and then the spring breaks, and the legs come off, and nothing remains but a contribution to the dust heap.
But surely that need not and ought not to be the whole of Christmas only a single day of generosity, ransomed from the dull servitude of a selfish year,-only a single night of merry-making, celebrated in the slave-quarters of a selfish race! If every gift is the token of a personal thought, a friendly feeling, an unselfish interest in the joy of others, then the thought, the feeling, the interest, may remain after the gift is made.
The little present, or the rare and long-wished-for gift (it matters not whether the vessel be of gold, or silver, or iron, or wood, or clay, or just a small bit of birch bark folded into a cup), may carry a message something like this:
"I am thinking of you to-day, because it is Christmas, and I wish you happiness. And to-morrow, because it will be the day after Christmas, I shall still wish you happiness; and so on, clear through the year. I may not be able to tell you about it every day, because I may be far away; or because both of us may be very busy; or perhaps because I cannot even aff ord to pay the postage on so many letters, or find the time to write them. But that makes no difference. The thought and the wish will be here just the same. In my work and in the business of life, I mean to try not to be unfair to you or injure you in any way. In my pleasure, if we can be together, I would like to share the fun with you. Whatever joy or success comes to you will make me glad. Without pretense, and in plain words, good-will to you is what I mean, in the Spirit of Christmas.'
It is not necessary to put a message like this into high-flown language, to swear absolute devotion and deathless consecration. In love and friendship, small, steady payments on a gold basis are better than immense promissory notes. Nor, indeed, is it always necessary to put the message into words at all, nor even to convey it by a tangible token. To feel it and to act it out-that is the main thing.
There are a great many people in the world whom we know more or less, but to whom for various reasons we cannot very well send a Christmas gift. But there is hardly one, in all the circles of our acquaintance, with whom we may not exchange the touch of Christmas life.
In the outer circles, cheerful greetings, courtesy, consideration; in the inner circles, sympathetic interest, hearty congratulations, honest encouragement; in the inmost circle, comradeship, helpfulness, tenderness,-
" Beautiful friendship tried by sun and wind Durable from the daily dust of life ^
After all, Christmas-living is the best kind of Christmas-giving.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
Viewed: 158 times
Comments: 1 comment

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" has been a popular Christmas carol for nearly 150 years. Originally a poem by Henry Longfellow titled “Christmas Bells”, the text was set to music by composer John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905) in 1872.
Born in Portland, Maine on February 27, 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a 19th century scholar, novelist, and poet, known for works like 'Voices of the Night,' 'Evangeline' and 'The Song of Hiawatha.' On the morning of Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow was inspired to write a poem as he listened to church bells ringing throughout the town. The poem titled “Christmas Bells”, addresses Longfellow's deep despair at the time over the loss of his wife years earlier, his son who was wounded in the American Civil War, and the horrors of war. However, despite his sadness, in the end, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate hope that:
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep
The Wrong shall fail;
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!
Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play,     And wild and sweet     The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom     Had rolled along     The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day,     A voice, a chime,     A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South,     And with the sound     The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent,     And made forlorn     The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth," I said;     “For hate is strong,     And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;     The Wrong shall fail,     The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
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Author: Storytelling Santa
Category: Business
Post Date:
Viewed: 157 times
Comments: 2 comments

As a Financial Advisor I also often get questions this time of year about what is deductible. Although I will mention things in broad terms, it is always best to ask your tax advisor about your specific items.
Here is a good rule of thumb: If it cannot be used for other purposes and is purchased specifically and exclusively for your Santa business, it is usually deductible.
Some examples:
Santa suit - yes, can't be worn to work or church or anything "normal" Santa belt - yes Wig and beard - yes Boots - this one is tricky - do you wear them to ride your motorcycle? Do you wear them everyday? With Jeans? Might not be deductible. If they are exclusive to Santa then yes. Bells, toys, stickers or candy to give away - yes Eyewear - another tricky one. Do you use them exclusively for Santa? yes if exclusive, no if you wear them everyday. Santa's chair - yes, if it is decorative and not used for other purposes. Memberships to Santa organizations - yes Books for Santa or your Santa business - yes Here are some tricky ones:
Domain name and hosting - yes if exclusive for Santa Internet service - usually you can deduct a portion. Speak with your tax advisor Home phone or cell phone - same as internet service Mileage - a qualified yes. Speak with your tax advisor, keep good records. It can get a little complicated - donated time as a volunteer, for example can count as a donation. Get advice. KEEP RECORDS Hair care products, bleach, etc - complicated. If you bleach year round it may not be deductible. Storage containers - yes, if used only for Santa stuff. Software, computer equipment, cameras, electronics - mostly no, but qualified. You must prove the equipment is dedicated and cannot be used in every day life. Talk to your tax advisor. Most of all, with everything, keep good records! I often recommend that clients buy a 3-ring binder and fill it with paper. Tape receipts to the pages and make notes beside the receipt as to what was purchased and the use.
I also recommend that business purchases be made separate from personal purchases. Keep the receipts separate; it is easier that way. Keep your mileage in a small notebook in your car - or even better, if possible do a MapQuest directions printout for your mileage and place in the same 3-ring binder.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
Viewed: 491 times
Comments: 0 comments

The following was posted on January 11, 2009 in Santa Rielly's blog, A Right Jolly Old Elf
Well, it was bound to happen. Christmas 2008 will be the year I remember as the year I told my daughter that I was Santa Claus – or rather, to be exact, one of Santa Claus’s Ambassadors.
I guess I should be thankful I got this far. After all, Meghan is almost 11. My son made it to 12! He only found out it was me after reading a newspaper article that mentioned my name.
Back in 2006 she was wavering. I decided to see if I couldn’t get at least another year out of her. So I appeared in Meghan’s bedroom at midnight. I woke her up and handed her an American Girl Doll that she really wanted. I told her she had been doing really well in school lately and I wanted to give her something extra special for working so hard. She really wanted that particular doll and they were sold out everywhere, so handing her the doll made me feel especially like Santa Claus. I sat next to her on the bed for a while and we talked about school and her friends. After a few minutes I said that I had better be getting on my way and told her to go back to sleep. I wished her Merry Christmas and told her that I loved her. Meghan said good night and told me that she loved me too. The whole visit lasted maybe 10 minutes. But those 10 minutes got me another 2 years.
Fast forward to Christmas 2008 - a few days before Christmas my daughter was looking at a few pictures. Meghan noticed that Santa Claus’s eyes are the same blue as Dad’s and that Santa Claus has a tiny birthmark on his cheek – also just like Dad. She then decides to interview (more like interrogate) everyone in the family. With a pen and notepad she starts jotting down her “clues” and after a thorough investigation, she comes to the conclusion that I must be Santa Claus. Although she cannot explain how I go from whiskers to clean shaven and back again, Meghan was convinced that I was Santa Claus.
But Christmas Eve was the clincher. During the Homily at the Christmas Vigil Mass at our Church, Santa Claus made an appearance. Santa came out and greeted Father and wished all the Parishioners a Very Merry Christmas. He went on to discuss the true meaning of Christmas. Meghan and her brother were Altar Servers for the Mass. They sat only a few feet from where Santa delivered his Christmas Eve message. Later at the end of Mass after Meghan changed back into her street clothes, she and her brother met me at the back of the Church. As parishioners exited, a few of them would wink at me or thank me as they exited the Church. At one point my daughter was standing beside me when one of the Parishioners said to me “nice job”. Meghan immediately gave me a look and said; “I know why she said that!” I was caught. But I had a backup plan.
Later in the evening, Meghan put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and lichen for the reindeer. She also wrote a very sweet note to Santa. In the note she invited Santa take a little break cookies and milk break and to please give the carrots and lichen to the reindeer. In the note she also mentioned that she thought that her Dad looked like him and left a little area for a reply. Her note to Santa was very cute and Santa’s reply was perfect! I’ll have to post that next time.
Christmas morning came and Meghan ran down from upstairs. The cookies and milk were half eaten and the carrots and lichen were gone. She read the reply to her note that Santa had left on the coffee table next to empty plate of cookies.

From there she went over to her stocking. As she reached for the stocking, she noticed something near the hearth of the fireplace. It was a heavy gold button with “SC” in the center and “North Pole” over the top. Attached to the button was some red thread. She reached down and picked it up. She recognized it immediately. "It must be one of Santa's buttons!; she said, “It must have gotten caught on the fireplace! I'm going to take it to school and show it to my friends that don't believe in Santa!”

As you can imagine, at this point, I am thinking that I may have just gotten past another Christmas. But by December 26, the little wheels in her head started turning again. She decides to re-open her “investigation”. After several attempts to get me and her brother to admit that I am Santa Claus, she starts to get upset that we won’t tell her what she knows must be true. I can tell she is getting frustrated. So I decide to tell her the truth – that I am one of Santa’s Ambassadors.
I tell Meghan that I have something very important to tell her. But before I tell her I make her promise that she cannot tell any of her friends and especially not her younger cousins and that this is our secret. She agrees. I hand her the letter to me from Santa Claus. I tell her to open it and to be careful because it is very old.

As we roll it out her eyes widen. It smells old. It looks old. Clearly this was written a very long time ago. It’s dated December 24, 1974. It’s practically a relic! After she reads the letter, I explain to her how Santa Claus has a few men stand in for him when he can’t be there in person and that it is our job to spread joy and happiness to children.

I told her that now that she knows, she could come along with me as one of my Elves. She loves the idea! I asked her what she thought. She told me that it was “cool” that I was Santa Claus. She asked me if I had my own sleigh or if I had to borrow Santa’s. She also asked me if I get to go to the North Pole every once in a while to see Santa. Apparently she thought that, that’s where I was going on all these business trips. That one caught me off guard a bit.
When I was a boy, I only knew one Santa Claus – my grandfather. My parents never took me to see Santa at the mall or to a party where Santa was appearing. Every year, Santa would visit me and my brothers a few days before Christmas. We always felt honored that Santa would make a special visit to our house. After all, he always arrived with a police car and fire engine escort. Lights flashing and sirens blaring, Santa was usually accompanied by a policeman and my Dad (also a policeman). Santa sat with us for no more than 15 minutes and he was whisked off to another appointment.
To this day, my parents never sat down with me and said, “ya know there is no such thing Santa Claus.” In fact, when I moved out of my parent’s house at 19, there were still gifts under the tree and presents in my stocking from Santa Claus. No one ever told us there was no Santa Claus.
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Author: Storytelling Santa
Category: Business
Post Date:
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Though my avocation is storyteller, as many of you know, in "real life" I am a Financial Advisor. Recently I had opportunity to talk with some storytellers about the business aspects of what they do. Most of it is easily transferable to all of us as Santas. this is the first of several. I would ask if you comment, try to stick to the topics here. Other topics I will mention and we can discuss later.
First all, determine if this is a business or hobby. If this is all you do, that is easy to determine. If like me you do several types of "entertainment", it can be either. In my case, I do not track Santa income and expense separately, but as line items in my overall "business". Therefore, if I have income from Santa or from doing a gig as a storyteller or even as a motivational speaker, it is still income from my business I categorize as "entertainer" on my tax forms. The easiest way to make a good determination is to talk to your tax man. Unless you are pretty good at tax law and changes, obtain the help of someone who actually deals with entertainers. It is really worth it because they know all the things to look for.
Several things to remember; if you are going to claim it is a business, you can't claim to lose money every year. It can be helpful to your tax situation, but you do not want the IRS to view it as a planned loss each year. If you do plan to claim it - KEEP EVERYTHING!!! More on this later.
Office: Do you have a specific room set aside for your Santa business? I do have an office in my home for my real job. I alsoou use that room for my storytelling business, so there is not an issue for me. If you do claim a portion of your home for your business it must be dedicated. This is NOT a bedroom with a closet for suits and "stuff" and maybe a desk in a corner. It can be a bedroom dedicated to your business... no bed, no dresser, unless it is for storing Santa stuff. Keep it honest.
If you have a 2,000 square foot home - traditional space, and you use a room that is 10'x20', then that 200 square feet would be 1/10th of your home. Then it would follow that 1/10th of the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, electric and other utilities. Remember that cable TV really is not a utility you should count. Telephone is different and I'll mention it later. Again, KEEP records to prove your deductions.
What usually does not fly is counting space all over your home... a little in the basement, a little in the garage, a little in the bedroom. Count one space as your business space.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
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While doing some research on the history of Santa Claus and Christmas traditions, I came across this poem by Goodloe H. Thomas. The poem was published in the December 19, 1912 issue of the Bristol Phoenix.
Kidnaped By Santa Claus
by Goodloe H. Thomas
My dad sez once they lived a boy
'Us bound that he would see
Old Santa Claus—an' had no joy
Fer thinkin' how 't'ud be
To hide behind a screen an' wait
Till Santa come around,
Then watch him waitn' to uncrate—
Without a word or sound.
 
Well, Christmas Eve, this boy let on
'At he was sound asleep,
An' when he knowed the rest had gone
To bed, he went a-creep
Down stairs—an' gracious!—
watcha think!
He run against him—smack!
Old Santa, yes-sir—'n quick as a wink
That boy 'uz in his pack.
 
An' ever since that boy has been
Strapped up an' has to go
With Santa, fer just that one sin,
Through miles of ice an' snow;
An' you bet I ain't gonna take
No chance like that—not quite!
You'll find 'at I won't be awake
When Santa comes to-night.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
Viewed: 674 times
Comments: 0 comments

Every year around this time, some variation of this poem is circulated online. The poem is generally credited to “a soldier stationed in Okinawa” or more recently since September 11, 2001, “a Marine stationed in Afghanistan”.
However, the poem’s true author is Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt.
Originally entitled, “Merry Christmas, My Friend”, Corporal Schmidt wrote the poem in 1986 while serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, in Washington, D.C.
That day the poem was placed in the Marine Corps Gazette and distributed worldwide. Schmidt’s poem was later published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991.
Below is Corporal Schmidt’s original version as printed in Leatherneck in 1991.
 
Merry Christmas, My Friend
by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt
Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live
As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.
I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.
Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.
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Author: Kevin Haislip
Category: Literature
Post Date:
Viewed: 564 times
Comments: 1 comment

Long before I became Santa, and in what now feels like another life altogether, I had a friend and a colleague at the newspaper I worked at who hated Christmas!  For my friend, Doug, the only thing he liked was the increased advertising commissions and the Christmas bonus he received.  He absolutely detested everything else about Christmas.  Thought it was all silliness and lies.
It was my favorite time of year!  I loved the reason for celebrating Christmas!  The home and hearth would be beautifully decorated, a Nativity would be prominently placed in the living room, an Advent calendar would be hung on the wall and the smell of a real pine tree brightly adorned and lit up with presents knee deep under it.  I loved all the excitement, the twinkling lights and the smells.  I would come home to a house full of excited children and my wife preparing a feast for us all to sit down and enjoy.  For snacks, she made ginger and sugar cookies right out of the oven just about all day long.
Bowls and bowls of popcorn would be popped and the children would sit down and string it to hang on the Christmas tree.  More of it was eaten than was ever hung up, but then, things are always more fun on a full stomach.
For Doug, it all changed one very cold early November evening.  I was just returning from an assignment and saw he was still at work, so I stopped by his cubical and we started talking.  Doug had just come back to the office from a meeting with Bill Anderson who owned a chain of appliance stores throughout the city.  Bill was a very wealthy man.  I also knew Bill pretty well and had great respect for him.
Doug continued his story.  A few days earlier, he had finished a meeting with a client and was heading for his parked car across the fountain plaza downtown.  As he walked, a van parked alongside the fountain caught his attention where there were about 25 homeless people gathered around the back of it.  As he passed the van, he saw three or four people at the back ladling out soup into bowls and handing it to those in line.
One of the men helping to pass out the soup was someone Doug knew.  It was Bill and he was dressed like he had just stepped out of the board room.  He had a long, camel hair Pea coat on over his suit.  Doug stopped and watched as the line dwindled down to a couple of people.  Then Bill began going around and talking to a number of the homeless as they ate.  Doug stayed in the dark shadows and watched.
Bill was talking to one of the men who was a skuzzy looking young man, dressed in very light summer shirt and shorts.  They talked for a few minutes, then Bill turned and began to walk back to the van.  Very suddenly, Bill stopped and went back to the young man.  The two of them talked for a couple more minutes before Bill took off his coat and helped the younger man to put it on.  When he was finished, Bill headed back to the van.  Doug was stunned at what he was seeing.  That coat had to have cost more than a thousand dollars.
Doug had never seen anything like it before!  Here was this wealthy businessman who had worked hard through the years building his business giving this homeless guy his very expensive coat!  The scene played over and over again in Doug's mind for a couple of days till he got up the nerve to call Bill and ask for an appointment.  He kind of expected Bill to tell him to mind his own business.
Bill welcomed Doug into his office and after dispensing with small talk, Doug told him what he had seen a couple of nights earlier.  He only had one question for Bill, "Why would you do something like that?"
Doug told me how Bill became very quiet as he told the story of what he had seen.  After Doug was finished, Bill leaned forward and began to speak:  Bill had been going down to the fountain to help feed the homeless for about a year and a half with others from his church.  That evening, he had just finished a board meeting and had to hustle to get down there in time to help.  He didn't normally go down in his suit and good coat. 
Bill told how he had been attending a Bible study before on Wednesday evenings and one evening the crew invited him to tag along with them to minister to the homeless.  From that first evening, Bill found himself very humbled.  As he prayed about what he had seen, he knew he was being directed by the Lord to continue ministering to the homeless.  So he had been going out just about every Wednesday evening since and relationships with several of the men were actually growing pretty deep. 
Doug continued telling his story to me.  He knew that I too was very involved in this work because I had told him about it before. 
The young man Bill had given his coat to was Ron and he was only 22 years old.  He had run away from his parents home shortly before graduating high school and was living on the streets.  When Bill had seen Ron, Bill rummaged around in the van to see if there was a blanket for him (the team usually took out woolen pile blankets to give out).  Unfortunately all the blankets had been given out before Bill could put his hands on one for him.
Bill further explained to Doug that he found himself trying to avoid Ron because he knew what the Lord was leading him to do.  His coat was new and was tailored to fit, so it was quite expensive.  But it was no use, and finally Bill went over to talk to him and gave Ron his coat.  Ron was indeed dressed in summer attire and it was very cold out that November evening.
As hard as it was for Doug to understand what Bill had done, what Bill said next was the most puzzling of all.
Bill finished by telling Doug that what he had seen that evening, what Ron had received was only a small measure of what God had been working into Bill's life.  From the very first night he had gone out, the Lord was cultivating into Bill's life the very heart of God for all mankind.  And in that time, the one thing he had seen was how often the poor are very quick to embrace the love of God into their lives.  He had come to understand that living wasn't about creating an empire, but that life, real life came by knowing Jesus and learning to love others, even sometimes at great personal expense.  Bill saw that God was using this time to change him, make him more compassionate and loving toward others.  Particularly those that in the past caused him roll up his car windows at intersections or look the other way before passing one of them on the street, the outcasts of our society.
In the weeks that followed, Doug found himself profoundly impacted by what he had seen that evening and what he had been told about it.  Doug quit with the cynical and sardonic comments and actually seemed to begin to enjoy the Christmas season.  He had come to understand just what it was that made Christmas so important and why people rejoiced as they did. 
Doug learned how God's gift of His Son Jesus has impacted so many lives down through the ages, people like St Nicholas, and caused them to be compassionate and to give selflessly.
I moved to a different city a few years later and have lost track of Doug (and Bill).  But every Christmas since, I remember Doug and how he was changed by witnessing the selfless giving of a beautiful coat to someone else who desperately needed it.  And I find myself rejoicing even more, because one more person has seen why Christ is so important to Christmas!

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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
Post Date:
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Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott (1832 –1888) was an American novelist and poet who authored over 30 books and short-story collections. She is best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Alcott’s career as an author began with poetry and short stories that appeared in popular magazines, often under the nom de plume, A.M. Barnard.
A Song For A Christmas Tree
by Louisa May Alcott
   Cold and wintry is the sky,
   Bitter winds go whistling by,
   Orchard boughs are bare and dry,
Yet here stands a faithful tree.
   Household fairies kind and dear,
   With loving magic none need fear,
   Bade it rise and blossom here,
Little friends, for you and me.
   Come and gather as they fall,
   Shining gifts for great and small;
   Santa Claus remembers all
When he comes with goodies piled.
   Corn and candy, apples red,
   Sugar horses, gingerbread,
   Babies who are never fed,
Are handing here for every child.
   Shake the boughs and down they come,
   Better fruit than peach or plum,
   'T is our little harvest home;
For though frosts the flowers kill,
   Though birds depart and squirrels sleep,
   Though snows may gather cold and deep,
   Little folks their sunshine keep,
And mother-love makes summer still.
   Gathered in a smiling ring,
   Lightly dance and gayly sing,
   Still at heart remembering
The sweet story all should know,
   Of the little Child whose birth
   Has made this day throughout the earth
   A festival for childish mirth,
Since the first Christmas long ago.
 
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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Viewed: 1,957 times
Comments: 1 comment

Known as the Island Poet, Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) was one of the most published American authors of the 19th Century. Thaxter lived much of her life on White Island off the coast of New Hampshire.Thaxter is best remembered for her non-fiction books “An Island Garden” and “Among the Isles of Shoals”. She also published a volume of poems, many of which are favorites with children, including the Christmas themed poem entitled, “Piccola”. The poem is about a poor French girl on one Christmas morning.
In 1914, Francis Jenkins Olcott (1872-1963) published a book of stories for young children entitled, “Good Stories for Great Holidays”. In the book, Olcott wrote a Christmas story based on Celia Laighton Thaxter's poem entitled, "Little Piccola".
 
Piccola
By Cellia Lalghton Thaxter
As fell to this little maid of France.
'T is seldom Fortune such favor grants
What happened to Piccola, children dear?
Poor, sweet Piccola! Did you hear
Only to live till summer again.
Striving with poverty's patient pain
Could hardly drive the wolf from the door,
'T was Christmas-time, and her parents poor
St. Nicholas nothing would bring to her!
Their little darling no joy might stir,
When dawned the morning of Christmas-day;
No gifts for Piccola! Sad were they
And so she slept till the dawn was gray.
Every child upon Christmas-day,
That something beautiful must befall
But Piccola never doubted at all
'T was plain St. Nicholas had been there!
Such sounds of gladness filled all the air,
She stole to her shoe as the morning broke;
And full of faith, when at last she woke,
And mother and father must peep inside.
See what the good saint brought! she cried,
Never was seen such a joyful child.
In rushed Piccola sweet, half wild:
Had crept into Piccola's tiny shoe!
A sparrow, that in at the window flew,
There was a little shivering bird!
Now such a story who ever heard?
And danced with rapture, she was so charmed.
While the starving sparrow she fed and warmed,
She cried, as happy as any queen,
How good poor Piccola must have been!
Children this story I tell to you,
Of Piccola sweet and her bird, is true.
In the far-off land of France, they say,
Still do they live to this very day.
 
Little Piccola
by Frances Jenkins Olcott
In the sunny land of France there lived many years ago a sweet little maid named Piccola.
Her father had died when she was a baby, and her mother was very poor and had to work hard all day in the fields for a few sous.
Little Piccola had no dolls and toys, and she was often hungry and cold, but she was never sad nor lonely.
What if there were no children for her to play with! What if she did not have fine clothes and beautiful toys! In summer there were always the birds in the forest, and the flowers in the fields and meadows,—the birds sang so sweetly, and the flowers were so bright and pretty!
In the winter when the ground was covered with snow, Piccola helped her mother, and knit long stockings of blue wool.
The snow-birds had to be fed with crumbs, if she could find any, and then, there was Christmas Day. But one year her mother was ill and could not earn any money. Piccola worked hard all the day long, and sold the stockings which she knit, even when her own little bare feet were blue with the cold.
As Christmas Day drew near she said to her mother, "I wonder what the good Saint Nicholas will bring me this year. I cannot hang my stocking in the fireplace, but I shall put my wooden shoe on the hearth for him. He will not forget me, I am sure."
"Do not think of it this year, my dear child," replied her mother. "We must be glad if we have bread enough to eat."
But Piccola could not believe that the good saint would forget her. On Christmas Eve she put her little wooden patten on the hearth before the fire, and went to sleep to dream of Saint Nicholas. As the poor mother looked at the little shoe, she thought how unhappy her dear child would be to find it empty in the morning, and wished that she had something, even if it were only a tiny cake, for a Christmas gift.
There was nothing in the house but a few sous, and these must be saved to buy bread.
When the morning dawned Piccola awoke and ran to her shoe. Saint Nicholas had come in the night. He had not forgotten the little child who had thought of him with such faith.
See what he had brought her. It lay in the wooden patten, looking up at her with its two bright eyes, and chirping contentedly as she stroked its soft feathers.
A little swallow, cold and hungry, had flown into the chimney and down to the room, and had crept into the shoe for warmth. Piccola danced for joy, and clasped the shivering swallow to her breast.
She ran to her mother's bedside. "Look, look!" she cried. "A Christmas gift, a gift from the good Saint Nicholas!" And she danced again in her little bare feet.
Then she fed and warmed the bird, and cared for it tenderly all winter long; teaching it to take crumbs from her hand and her lips, and to sit on her shoulder while she was working.
In the spring she opened the window for it to fly away, but it lived in the woods near by all summer, and came often in the early morning to sing its sweetest songs at her door.
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