Dec. 14, I was part of the Rotary Club’s Shopping Spree. This annual event pairs a Rotarian with a needy child in hopes of purchasing gifts for the child and members of his/her family.
The young man that I accompanied was a rather precocious and talkative 8-year-old who was a bit jaded when it came to acknowledging the magic of Christmas. However, during the shopping part of the activity, my new young friend became very animated and hopeful as he talked about selecting gifts for his family and for himself. As we walked through the toy department, we had a wonderful conversation about life and the mysteries of Christmas.
My young man was at that vulnerable age between not necessarily being a true believer while, just to be safe, carefully hedging his comments concerning Christmas miracles. It wasn’t until the end of the event when Santa entered the room and presented the children with their gifts that I saw my young man’s eyes glow with expressions of pure excitement and wonder.
It was then that I thought, where is the magic of Christmas for me? I have most assuredly lost the childlike innocence and joyous outlook that youngsters display during the season. In a flimsy attempt to answer my own question, I professed inwardly a more rational and mature perspective. My smug feeling of providing a grown-up response only lasted a moment as I realized that I still lacked a childlike exuberance and fascination for Christmas. If I’m truly honest with myself, a Christmas full of imagination, surprise and awe as displayed by a child is a lot more fun than my stodgy and overripened sense of maturity.
After having this conversation with myself, I began taking greater notice of the little bits of Christmas that make the season special. I set my minivan radio to the 24-hour Christmas Classics station and promised myself to sing out loud (when I’m alone!) to the songs of the season. I began looking more at the sparkling lights in the city for their beauty and contrast rather than as a chore requiring set up, maintenance and removal. I began trying to recognize and separate the smells of cinnamon, pine, peppermint and citrus when wandering through the stores. I even found myself wishing for snow (since school would be out anyway) on Christmas Eve!
By doing these things, I was a little more than surprised when I began having more Christmas-related thoughts and taking more charitable actions than before. I thought of more opportunities to give, increased ways to show kindness and discovered added reasons to reflect on conditions and people that bless my life so richly. So while I can’t turn back time or ignore the level of maturity obtained by a lifetime of experiences, this year I have benefited as a human being by developing a fresher and renewed outlook on life as a result of this Christmas season. I’m glad it didn’t take a Dickens-like visitation to help me remember the joyous nature of the season and to fully enjoy the wonder, awe and happiness that it brings.
I gratefully acknowledge my associations with all of you. Thank you for your service, for your dedication and your examples to our students, families and colleagues. I wish you and your loved ones a joyous, safe and restful holiday season.
Richard Stokes is the superintendent of the Carson City School District.