A few years ago, I interviewed a man named Courtney Taylor. Courtney is the Emergency Management Systems (EMS) Director at the local hospital, and during my interview, I asked him about his job, his background, his interests, and his family.
I’m no Barbara Walters. People seldom tear up or cry during my interviews, but during my interview with Courtney Taylor, something he relayed to me caused him to get emotional and made my eyes well up, too. The moment came after I asked him about his father and an annual Christmas toy drive.
“Gordon EMS always has a toy drive before Christmas,” Courtney told me. “That community project is very important to me. I look forward to it every year.” He got quiet, cleared his throat, then shared a powerful memory with me.
“My parents were always involved in the community,” he said. “My dad participated in the Elk’s Club toy drive every year. When I was about nine or ten, he allowed me to go with him and the other men to help deliver Christmas gifts to needy families all around Gordon County.”
It was a few days before Christmas and the Elk’s Club entourage drove up to a cluster of rusted-out mobile homes and started offloading toys and gifts and taking them inside one of the mobile houses.
“On our way back out to the truck, my dad and I noticed a little boy sitting off to the side of the yard crying, so we walked over and talked to him,” Courtney said. “We asked him why he was crying, and he said that Santa had forgotten him — again. My dad said, ‘No, no, we are just helping Santa with his early deliveries. Christmas isn’t for a few more days, and so Santa will come with your gifts then.’” There was another pause in Courtney’s story.
“The little boy looked up at us and said, ‘But Santa never comes to my house. He never remembers me.’” Courtney said that his dad processed the comment for a moment, then turned and walked over to the truck and retrieved a slip of paper. He returned to where the little boy sat crying with the paper in his hand and pretended to read it.
“My dad asked him, ‘What’s your name, son?’ And the little boy told him his name. And my dad said, ‘Oh, here you are. You’re on the early delivery list, too. Right here. We’ve got you down for tomorrow. We’re delivering your toys tomorrow.”
The little boy’s face lit up, and Courtney, his father, and the other men left. After the encounter with the little boy, Courtney’s dad was a man on a mission. He raised more money that night for that one child than he had all month for the others. They shopped the following day and purchased dozens of great gifts and delivered them to the little boy — the boy Santa Claus forgot.
“That’s what I remember about my father,” Courtney said, choking back tears. “That’s the kind of man he was. That story says it all. He was full of compassion for others. He helped people. He gave them hope.”
Each year, as I purchase toys and other items for needy children in my community, I often think back to Courtney’s story. I think it signifies the Christmas spirit — giving love to family, friends, and total strangers — and making sure no one feels forgotten or left out.
I bet the little boy from Courtney’s story still remembers that Christmas — the year Santa didn’t forget him.
I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas, and most of all, I hope all of you had an opportunity to brighten someone else’s day.
Happy New Year!