A Life and Death Story for Your New Year by Ben B. Boothe
More than 17 years ago, busy with company business, I received a volunteer request in Fort Worth to “make some calls for Santa Claus” just before Christmas. I didn’t have time for such things, but this seemed to call to me, and I was compelled to check it out. When I got there, I entered a room with 25 tables, each with a telephone. Someone handed each of us a handful of cards, sent in by parents, asking Santa to make a personal call to their child.
After making several calls, one caused me to pause.
“Our son John is very sick. Call us first so we can prepare him to speak to Santa.”
So I called, and the mother, Priscilla, answered. “This is Santa calling for John.” She said, “Oh, give me a moment. Oh, Santa, ask him to take his medicine, it has been hard for him.” Then I heard her say, “John, Santa Claus is calling for you. Here, I will hold the phone for you.”
“Hello?” a tiny, weak voice said.
“Ho Ho Ho, this is Santa Claus. Meeerrrryyyy Christmas, John! Now what would you want for Christmas?”
“I want a space ship. I want to fly and see the stars,” He said.
“Well now. John, have you been a good boy?” Santa said.
Weak, almost quivering, the voice said. “Yes, Santa, I've been good.”
“Well John, I want you to do Santa a big favor. Will you take your medicine for Santa?”
There was hesitation, and then, “Yes . . . Santa. It doesn’t taste good, but I will.”
"Santa wishes you a Merry Christmas, and Santa is soooo proud of you!”
“Ok Santa…” His little voice seemed happier.
That night, Santa in his costume happened to drop by to wish John a Merry Christmas in person. It was a brief visit, but little John, just a wisp of a child, smiled from his pillow.
I got a call the next day. “Our little John died last night, on the pillow, between us in bed. He was so happy about Santa. You gave our child joy the last hours of his life. We are so thankful,” Priscilla said.
This is the New Year’s message to you for 2017, and I trust that you will pass this on.
- However busy your life is, you are not too busy to help someone smile -- especially a child, mother, elderly person . . . anyone. Perhaps the person sitting in the room beside you. Perhaps your boss, a waiter, a kid in school. NOT TOO BUSY.
- There is nothing like saying thanks. Today I got a belated card from John’s mom and dad, as I have every year for the 17 years since we met. Here it is: These cards of thanks honor their child and his innocence. His spirit inspired them, and I to try to do better, to do more. Who would have thought that almost two decades later, I would have the privilege to be a Shriner, a group dedicated to operating 22 hospitals which treat 92,000 kids a year, for free.
It is a blessing just to live a life daily and be inspired to say thanks, to brighten someone's day. You see, it can be a simple thing, that word of thanks.
Those cards of appreciation from John's family are the most precious correspondence of my life. Every year they bring back a memory, a tear. SAYING THANK YOU . . . POWERFUL.
3. Life affords each of us an opportunity, a privilege to do something -- even something as simple as making a telephone call -- to encourage others. Remember, do not ignore the privileges that come your way this year. IT IS A PRIVILEGE.
I am not too busy to write this message, and want to say thank you for the privilege to have you as a reader. Make it a Happy New Year! -- Ben