Volume 92, Issue 54

Wednesday, December 9, 1998

and to all a goodnight


Holiday spirit worth remembering

A couple of weeks ago, the Focus section placed an ad in The Gazette requesting real-life holiday spirit stories which best illustrated the true meaning of giving and sharing. John Siambanopoulos's story showed not only his own spirit but that of a stranger he encountered on the street. As the winner of our contest, John will have a turkey donated to the London Food Bank in his name by the Focus section.

While growing up, I always loved to go downtown on Saturday afternoons and visit my favourite used bookstores and record shops in Kitchener-Waterloo. Two days before Christmas, about four years ago, as dusk was falling and stores were starting to close, something happened which gave my Christmas spirit an unexpected lift and inspired my sense of generosity.

I was approached by a man who looked to be in his late 40s walking the opposite way. He appeared rather rough and unkept and he reminded me of a few other people that day who were asking for seasonal generosity in the form of spare change. He seemed a great deal older than he probably was and the cuffs of his coat were a bit tattered.

He stopped me and explained his situation. He was from a nearby town and had been visiting with friends but they had left earlier and he was stranded. He was trying to get enough change to buy a ticket home before the last bus left. After sensing my doubt, he pleaded with me, insisting that he was honest in his intentions.

I usually don't give change to people who seem to be on their way to the liquor store instead of getting a hot meal or coffee. I asked him where he lived in the other city and he gave me a street name I didn't recognize. His story seemed an unlikely one, but the spirit of the moment and the cold snow underneath my feet gave me the go ahead and I gave him about a dollar's worth of change and wished him luck.

Then he did the oddest thing. He carefully counted what I gave him and he dug into his own pockets and fished out the same amount. He motioned that I open my hand and as I did so, he placed all of the money, mine and his, in it. He then quietly said that in my life, all the good I do will come back to me two-fold. He wished me a Merry Christmas and walked away, leaving me under the street light where he had initially stopped me, with my faith in the human spirit a little stronger than it had been a few minutes before.


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Copyright The Gazette 1998