Lots of you ONE GOOD DEED blog readers have enjoyed my most recent post (February 1) about the World’s Sweetest Customer, but it took even me a few days to realize why my interaction with her affected me so much. It stayed with me for days, and then suddenly I remembered one of the pages from ONE GOOD DEED, the book — a Christmas Eve story from my childhood that I’ve never forgotten. And never forgiven myself for. I’m reprinting it here for you to read now; I often say that’s it’s never too late — once you read both stories, I think you’ll agree. The 60¢ hasn’t made up for the 22¢…but it’s helped a little.
22¢ December 24
I guess it would be easy to say that Christmas Eve, and other happy religious holidays this time of year people everywhere enjoy, abounds with Good Deeds. All season long we’re on our best behavior, and if there are ever a couple of days where all we’re doing is concentrating on making others happy, well then this is it. But for decades there has never been a Christmas Eve that I don’t think back to one long ago, and with great shame.
I must have been around nine, and my Mom and I were doing some last minute holiday shopping in our hometown of New Bedford, which had long ago lost the riches brought there by the whaling industry. Dusk was falling outside and the shop was about to close for the holiday when a little boy came in alone, younger than I was. I watched him look around carefully, finally pick out an apron, and bring it to the proprietor. He held out his hand, and the shop owner looked down. “That apron’s $1.00,” he said. “You need 22¢ more. You don’t have enough money.” The kid was crestfallen, and left the store without a Christmas gift for his mother.
I had 22¢ in my pocket. I knew I had enough to help him out, and I didn’t. I knew it standing there, I knew it when I didn’t run after him down the street in 1961, I know it as I write this, 50 years later. I know this has the ring of a corny fable, but it has broken my heart every Christmas since.
I wonder sometimes whether we all have one personal original sin. I believe this is mine. So whenever I think of this 22¢, I try to remember:
Give a little, however you can.