Editorial — Sharing holiday spirit

Glenn Rutherford

In the 1950s in a far from affluent part of town, there was a group of children who, like children everywhere, looked forward every year to the magic of Christmas. As writer Gene Shepherd accurately said, Christmastime was the highlight of the childhood year, the center of the childhood universe.

The arrival of the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalogue was always a high point for these children, too. Not every family in the neighborhood received the catalogue, so those who did shared with those who didn’t. There were late-November, early-December gatherings on front porches and in living rooms where friends would pour over page after page, each filled with pictures of toys they all knew they’d never receive from Santa Claus, parents or anyone else.

There was joy in those viewing sessions, of course. The great thrill of Christmas for these children, and children everywhere really, lay in the anticipation. Even after the knowledge of Christmas gift-giving took much of the holiday magic away, in this modest neighborhood a practical reality set in.

A group of a dozen or so friends often planned their Christmas gift requests together. One boy would request a football; another a basketball; and so on. It was, for lack of a better expression, a communal Christmas cooperative. And for the most part, it worked.

No one family had the means to successfully fulfill every Christmas wish — some had no means at all. And in the 1950s, community efforts to help the needy weren’t nearly as well organized or plentiful as they are now.

The local parish, St. Leo the Great, helped mightily. So did the Toys for Tots program, headed by the U.S. Marines. But there were, of course, families and children who went without. It was a holiday certainty.

These days that certainty is still around, but like that group of neighborhood children decades ago, people have planned and worked and organized to keep the numbers of disappointed children and families as low as possible.

Just as the neighborhood kids were happy when everybody received something at Christmas, the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville can take pride in the efforts to spread the holiday cheer as far as possible.

The Record’s Ruby Thomas and Kayla Bennett reported the first of this month on the annual efforts of the archdiocese to provide food, clothing and Christmas gifts to those who can’t provide for themselves. And the numbers they reported are impressive, if still insufficient.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Santa Shop has gathered and distributed toys, clothing and shoes for between 800 and 1,000 children.

Catholic Charities also collected new toys, items for teens and hygiene products for its annual Christmas giveaway program, too. The Record reporters noted that this year Catholic Charities expected to serve about 1,000 individuals from 250 families. More than 25 parishes and local businesses collected and donated items for the program this year.

And the Dec. 1 story also noted that the Franciscan Kitchen, known for its role in feeding the city’s homeless throughout the year, is hosting a Christmas giveaway program, too. The Kitchen will provide underwear, socks, undershirts, blankets, backpacks, hygiene and toiletry items on Christmas day to its clients.

The point here is simple: There are still families and children for whom Christmas will be something less than a scene from a Hallmark Channel movie. There will still be houses not visited by Santa Claus or by people of good will.

But those numbers will be less than they might have been thanks to the efforts of the people of the archdiocese. That should make everybody feel a bit of the holiday spirit.

Record Editor Emeritus

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