As shop keepers get to go home early, traffic finally begins to thin, and families embrace, here are some of my eleventh-hour Christmas wishes that I’ll take to church tonight …
I WISH that I could meet the guy, just for two minutes, from Bellefontaine, Ohio, who marched to the lay-away counter at the local Walmart, dumped $25,000 in valid gift cards on the counter and told the stunned clerks, “Pay off as many accounts as you can … and start with the ones that include toys.” Then again, my hug might last longer than that.
I WISH that when the clerk called one lady to explain her account had a zero balance, I could have heard the customer gasp, pause for a moment, and then reply, “I have the money … so before I come pick up my things, I need to drop all of it off at the homeless shelter. Will that be alright?”
I WISH that I had been listening to the radio in Des Moines the other day when, on Star 102.5, a letter that was written in August of 2011 was finally read out loud. Brenda Schmitz died of ovarian cancer shortly after she wrote it two years ago and a “secret Santa” had been holding it until the father of her three boys remarried. Brenda had three wishes; that the new wife be “pampered” after becoming so wonderful to the boys she left behind, that the family would take a magical trip somewhere fun, and that the staff of the Mercy Medical Center be given “a night out full of drinks, food and fun for all they do every day for the cancer patients they encounter.” Bingo! With the help of a huge crowd of sponsors, the tear-drenched radio station then announced new wife Jane will be given a full day at a Disneyworld spa, the whole family will accompany her on an all-expense paid week-long trip to the Magic Kingdom, and the cancer unit heroes will soon dance and dine until dawn. By gumbo, wish granted!
I WISH those naysayers who declared Peyton Manning’s career was over when he had neck surgery could have seen him throw the 25-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas to set an NFL record for the most strikes in a season. So far he has 51 TD passes with one regular-season game left to play and has been chosen as Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year.”
I WISH that there were more people like Stacy Salazar in Denver, who answered a chance for a free Christmas Wish on the Facebook page of Denver’s famed disc jockey Willie B. She just wanted a new carpet. To give her grandmother. Who raised Stacy. And her three brothers. After the children’s single mom was murdered. When Stacy was 7. (drum roll please) Carpet nothing! A complete $80,000 renovation for Vivian Gallegos, age 89, was completed on Sunday and, yes, the 40-year-old carpet was also replaced.
I WISH retiring Chattanooga police chief Bobby Dodd the very best as he enters the private sector and thank him on behalf of a grateful community for the many things he has done to keep us safe.
I WISH we could merge our city and county police agencies with Sheriff Jim Hammond leading both; the result would save us millions of dollars which we could then use to pay Erlanger Hospital for over a million dollars of health care its provides each year for the inmates at the county jail.
I WISH the UT-Chattanooga football team will come back from the holidays and tackle the off-season program with a vengeance; the 2014 Mocs may be the best collection of talent ever assembled by Russ Huesman and his staff.
I WISH I had been in Warren, Michigan, the other day, this after three young boys were playing in a park and found some money. Instead of keeping the cash, Jason Burgess, Malachi Shelton and LaMont Kirkesy ran home where Burgess’ grandmother noticed it included a check made out to a local church. So the boys took it to the church and gave it back. Not so fast, hot shots! The Mayor has presented them with framed Resolutions. "What a wonderful Christmas gift you have given to all of the young people in the metro area," Jim Fouts said as the TV camera rolled, “and that is you serve as models of honesty and integrity."
I WISH that Richard Floyd, my state representative, knew how happy he made me Sunday when he told me he was planning to serve another term in the legislature.
I WISH college football coaches everywhere could be as creative as University of Virginia’s Mike London. The other day he sent a one-word letter to California recruit Jeffrey Farrar that said simply, “You!” The kid loved it and will accept the Cavaliers’ offer. No wonder London has put together a solid recruiting class.
I WISH that Winter Vinecki’s father, who died five years ago with prostate cancer, could know his daughter has now raised over $500,000 to help scientists discover a cure for the disease to perpetuate his memory. Winter has also competed in 26.2-mile marathons on six different continents (set a woman’s record in a race in South America), has won two national triathlons, and is an aerial skiing sensation in her hometown of Park City, Utah. Experts say she has a legitimate chance to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. One more thing: Winter Vinecki is only 14 years old.
I WISH there was a way to buy stock in 16-year-old Jordan Cox of Essex, England. When his mom and dad split last year he decided to help his mom with the bills so he started couponing. That’s right, clipping coupons to reduce the cost of their food. Silly kid – the other day he went to the supermarket with 470 coupons in hand, loaded three big buggies with $935 worth of food, and then asked the manager to call the homeless shelter and see if they would mind coming to pick it up. And what did it cost? About 7 cents in real money.
I WISH my pal Marvin Smith on this, the first Christmas he’s ever spent without his mom, could somehow know that when she went to heaven he was the very first thing she thanked God for giving her.
I WISH Capt. Jeremiah Catlin, who was diagnosed with Stage Four melanoma while working as a chaplain in Iraq during 2007, could have known during the months of despair and misery while he fought the disease as well as the enemy, that he would run in a marathon six years later (this September) and will be promoted to Major in January.
I WISH that I could have seen Jessica Namath’s face the other day when her dog, Tula, was returned to her after it wandered off five years ago. The dog was found 200 miles away from her home and was identified by an imbedded chip. Oh, Jessica’s dad is happy, too, almost as much as he was that time his Jets beat the Colts in the Super Bowl.
I WISH that I had been there last week when a Salvation Army kettle was opened in Miami and they found a diamond ring that was later appraised for $3,500. A note was attached that read: "Please continue your good work caring for the needy in God's name."
And finally, I WISH you and your loved ones a day of splendor and joy and hope the Spirit of Christmas will dwell inside each of us until it is renewed late in the New Year.