Santa Claus had come early I thought. Just inside the door beneath the Christmas tree were two bushel baskets overflowing with every sort of dime store toy you can imagine. But just as I was about to dive into one of the baskets I heard, “No, darling, those are for . . . [a certain needy family in our community]. Even at the age of four or five (I’m not exactly sure) I remember understanding the situation immediately, for I recognized the family who was needy, and also realized that I was not. Then and there I learned one of life’s great lessons from Millie and Jack Hamrick, my parents’ dearest friends whose house was always decorated like a fairy land at Christmas (one of their many acts of generosity).
The great life lesson I learned that day comes from the question that arose in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, “and who is my neighbor?” “My neighbor”, of course, is anyone in need who is somehow, someway within my reach. Millie and Jack understood that and through their example helped me to understand as well. That is not to say that I have not passed by on the other side of the road too many times, ignoring those in need, but I cannot do so without at least realizing what I should have done. I’m sure Millie and Jack did not stop and help every needy soul they encountered either, but they did it often enough to make a difference – and to make an impression on me.
What great hope it gives when private citizens rise to the occasion of loving their neighbors in times of need. Not only are the needs of others being fulfilled, but of equal importance there are children in the community whose little minds are paying attention. They are exposed to the goodness and generosity of others as I was that day at age four or five. How else can we ever expect the next generation to learn the great life lessons such as loving our neighbors and how to be generous if not by someone’s example? After all, I can still see those two bushel baskets full of dime store toys and hear Millie’s voice stop me just as I was about to dive in. “No, darling, those are for . . .” They were for someone in need – and I understood that.