Editor's Note: Occasionally, Letters to the Editor are added to the online edition. This letter - in light of the holiday season - is one such letter.
It’s been an odd holiday season, one that seemingly cannot get kickstarted. We got a late start on the planning for The Annual Christmas Classic, however it’s all put together and ready to go off without a hitch on Christmas night at 7pm. Our gracious hosts, The Cirellos, have allowed us use of Park Place restaurant for the festivities, as well as pledging a 20% donation of the evening’s sales. Myself, along with Ryan Revoir of Rockstar DJ services, will be working the event and donating 100% of all tips and gratuities received to The Relay for Life organization.
Just a few days ago, my presence was requested in Wyoming, a place where I had returned home from recently after working there for three years. This had put a damper on what was already proving to be a difficult holiday season. With agreements in place, flights booked, and tears shed, I took off to once again contribute to the energy independence of our great country. First stop: Oklahoma. I needed to pick up my work truck from the company headquarters and drive it 13 hours to Wyoming. Needless to say, I was prepared for a long trip of a lot of thinking. Probably too much.
Being on the road during the holidays is probably one of the most trying events a person goes through. But as I made my way, and got to thinking, I was reminded of Chris Walden. Chris is a man that came to be a friend of mine through work in the oilfield. What he brought to mind made me realize that working on the road is trying and hard at times at holidays, but it is nothing in comparison to what our brothers and sisters in the armed services are going through at this time. Chris served in Afghanistan and I have spent many hours watching the videos he brought back. From watching those accounts, it’s clear that, we as the general public, have a limited view into the hell these heroes endure for us. We truly have the greatest people in the world protecting our freedom and promoting the world’s. We owe them, at the very least, a thought of their vigilance and a prayer for their safety. I felt that this letter needed to include this. Our soldiers are our heart and soul; they are who allow us to be free to celebrate with our families. Thank you one and all who have served and continue to serve.
First stop: Oklahoma. With thoughts of the holiday season approaching, my mind was racing from the moment I cleared security at the airport. After reading last year’s letter to the editor trying to bolster the holiday spirit, I felt myself lacking this year in my effort. It plagued me all the way to my Atlanta connection, and for the life of me, I struggled to come up with one reason why I should be in the holiday spirit. Then it happened.
While pondering my ever-changing life, sitting in the Atlanta airport, an angel approached me. Evelyn was her name. Evelyn the angel. Caught up in my Facebook and email riddled technical hoopla, I barely noticed her approach me. Evelyn is 3 years old and had a few candy canes of her own that afternoon. She walked right up and proclaimed, “Excuse me, would you like a candy cane while you wait for the plane?” She already had me.
After I told her I would love one, she jumped up into the chair next to me to deliver it. She sat down, I thanked her for the treat, and she asked me if I was headed home for Christmas. She saw my hardhat, and questioned if I was returning from work to see my family. I told her that unfortunately, I was called to work on an emergency and had to leave my family in NY. The expression on this little girl’s face and the way she carries herself is definitely an accolade of the way she was raised, as she looked me in the eyes and held onto everything I was saying. As we talked about Christmas and what it meant to her, I couldn’t help but realize that there were few people in this world that I have ever had that much of a heartwarming conversation with, much less one three years of age.
As we were getting our things together to board the plane, Evelyn had everything in order and introduced me to her parents (who were sitting across from me and watched the whole interaction). After having a candy cane and talking with the little girl for about 15 minutes, it happened. I’ll never forget this as long as I live. I thanked her for the candy cane and told her parents that it had completely made my day. Evelyn then looked at me, then at her parents, and back to me. She said, “Johnny, I’m sure that my parents wouldn’t mind if you came to our house for Christmas. I know it’s not your family, but it is my family and no one should be without a family on Christmas. I’ll even let you have one of my presents.” I have never fought back tears so hard in my life. A 3 year old crippled a life-hardened grown man. Trying to hold myself together, I thanked her and her parents. I told them that they had the most precious angel, and she had given me the inspiration to seek the holiday spirit I desperately needed.
Upon hearing me tell her parents that she was an angel, Evelyn hit me with something that would bring me to my knees. In this weird world, things somehow connect and when they do, it becomes clear that some of the things we do are incredibly important, even to others who may not be aware of it. Evelyn started her story to me, telling me,” Johnny, I’m not the angel. We already have an angel in our family. My little brother looks over us all the time. He makes sure we are safe and he reminds us that we are a family.” I explained to her that I also had a little brother who looks over my family, and that I miss him dearly. Mind you, this is all before I have to get on a plane for a 2 ˝ hour flight. I hugged both of her parents and we continued to talk as we went down the jet way. At the end of the conversation, they explained to me to me that baby Andrew had Leukemia, and there just weren’t really any available options that would really combat it.
They say everything happens for a reason. On that day, December 15, 2014, that statement could never have been more true. My search for the holiday spirit was over. My purpose was clear. It took a three year old to blind me from everything terrible in the world. While our effort to raise money for the fight against cancer is paramount, the supplemental benefits that come along with it are priceless. In a cold world full of terrible ordeals, the one thing we can never lose is hope. In the spirit of hope, Evelyn the angel has shown me that compassion, love, and the human spirit do still exist. In the spirit of her little brother Andrew, we will carry on our fight this Christmas and we encourage everyone to join us, even if it’s just stopping in for a quick drink after a long day with the family. It’s about celebrating life. It’s about keeping the hope. In the end, it’s about us helping us. Keep the spirit alive. Merry Christmas everyone.
Choose to live,