A little ‘Ho Ho!’ to counter the ho-hum

Published 8:02 pm Saturday, December 11, 2010

However hard it might be to keep up with the compressed deadlines, tight schedules and special events that consume our attention here at the Suffolk News-Herald during the Christmas season, I am always gratified to be a part of the city’s celebration of this holy and wonderful holiday.

Saturday was a great example of just what makes Christmas such a special time around here.

I started the day at the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. There, despite chilly temperatures and threatening rainclouds, scores of people turned out to decorate the headstones and columbaria of veterans from all over the area who have chosen to be buried in Suffolk.

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As the volunteers completed their work, one could look out across the cemetery’s first open (and nearly full) section and see thousands of green wreaths adorned with red bows bringing a bit of color to the gray marble headstones.

There were Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, ROTC units and Civil Air Patrol cadets. There were active duty and retired members of every branch of the military — and there were civilians, too. What they all had in common was a desire to honor those who now lie at rest in Suffolk after having served their nation in the armed forces. The giving spirit of the volunteers exemplifies the spirit of the holiday the wreaths represent.

While the Horton Wreath Society conducted its program as a gift to both the veterans buried at the cemetery and to those who love them, across town in a small office space on West Washington Street, a much smaller group of people directed that giving spirit toward 200 or so Suffolk children who might not have received a toy this Christmas, but for the kindness of strangers.

During a Toys for Tots distribution at Tax Time on 911 East Washington Street, volunteers led men and women from more than 90 different families through a narrow hallway and into a small office that had been converted into a toy store, where an employee with a plastic trash bag helped choose several age-appropriate toys for each boy and girl on the parent’s list.

There were smiles on the faces of the mothers and fathers who received the toys, but the smiles seemed larger on those who were conducting the distribution. There’s just something about giving that blesses the hearts of the givers.

And there’s something about covering such events this time of year that blesses me. No matter how much of a humbug mood I might be in, it’s impossible for me to walk away from such events without feeling there’s a little jingle in my steps, a little “Ho Ho!” pressing back against the ho-hum.

I can’t think of a place I’d rather be for Christmas.