My friend Jeremy is an amazing soul. He's one of the funniest people I've ever met and always knows how to take a conversation just one step too far. He also has an amazing heart, never failing to help me and everyone at The Half Fund to further our mission of lifting the veil on cancer, one story at a time.
He's also a cynic, and anyone I've ever seen try to pull one over on him encourages a scathing wit that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Now that you know all of this, it makes it all the more cosmically unbelievable what happened to him last week.
As Jeremy told me, "I was in a coffee shop with my daughter, her friend, and my son. They were being pretty loud and argumentative, and it was probably not my finest hour as a parent."
Jeremy tells me that as they were walking into the coffee shop, they noticed a man who looked like Santa pulling into the parking lot driving an F-150 pick-up truck. Who knew Santa was a Ford man?
So as Jeremy sits down with the three kids, Santa walks up to the table and says, "Are you their father?"
Jeremy is only a dad to two of the three, so without lying, he says, "Maybe."
He then looks at the girls and asks, "Have you been good this year?"
"Maybe." Like father, like daughter.
He then pulls out a $100 dollar bill and tells the girls, "I need you to help me. I want you to take this and make as many people as possible happy. Can you do that for me?"
The girls look at the $100 bill, and had not bothered to hear anything past, "I need you to take this..."
Santa looked at them and said, "I'm counting on you." And like that... *poof* ...he was gone.
At this point, Jeremy didn't know whether to dook or go sailing. The girls, meanwhile, start plotting how they can spend the biggest bill they've ever seen in their lives. The boy, who has been noticeably quiet, immediately injects, "You could each buy me a video game; that would make me happy," into the conversation. The girls then talk about each of them getting a new phone. Or wouldn't a pet be a great idea? They could get a dog... or a ferret... or a musk ox.
Jeremy decides he should probably insert himself into the conversation at this point. "Santa said that you should make as many people as you can, happy."
"Maybe we could feed all of the children in Africa," said his daughter's friend.
"Maybe. But let's keep thinking of things that we can do this year, " replied Jeremy.
"What if we reunited families who have lost children? That would make people happy," said his daughter.
"Yes," said Jeremy, "but again... let's keep thinking of other things that this would allow us to do."
The girls thought for a few seconds more. "What if we got a band to play at our school? That would make a whole lot of people happy."
"That's a great thought," said Jeremy, "but do you know how much it costs to hire a band?"
"It's a lot." Jeremy thought that they were on the right track, though, so he asked them an interesting question. "Girls, what do you think makes people happy?"
At first, the usual suspects came up. Toys. House. Car. But then Jeremy's daughter's friend said something that turned it in an entirely different direction.
"My dad is in the Navy. When he came home from Afghanistan, I was never so happy as the moment I saw him."
Jeremy saw his opening. "So what you're saying is that what makes you happy is being loved, and being together with people you love."
"I guess that's true," said the friend.
"So what might make you unhappy?" asked Jeremy.
"I guess feeling alone."
"So are those the people we should help?" asked Jeremy.
At this point, Jeremy called me, knowing that I'm plugged into the local cancer community. He briefly told me what had happened thus far, and he said that these girls wanted to bring some stuffed animals to some sick patients. I told him that I would definitely look into it for him, and we said our goodbyes.
By that time, Jeremy's girlfriend, Becky, had arrived at their house. As they relayed the story to her, she said, "I know a place called Crisis Nursery that helps children of all ages. Maybe that would be a good place to check out."
So they called the Crisis Nursery, and sure enough, they said they had an unfortunately large problem. They help children of all ages, no matter what, but they only had toys that were suitable for children under the age of 5. So if any older children showed up for help, they had nothing of any recreational value. They said that they were in desperate need of things like board games and Matchbox cars.
They had finally found their match... or rather... one of their matches.
Jeremy said, "You know, the company I work for, Kolbeco, does a drive every year called Frills for Furbabies. Even though 100 bucks does not buy us an animal, we can help to make animals happier."
The girls thought this was a great idea. So they loaded up the car and headed to Walmart, where they stocked up on board games and Matchbox cars and toys and treats for dogs. By the time they were finished, they had $5 left. As they walked to the car with their loot, they noticed a woman getting out of her own car. What struck the girls about this woman is that she looked desperately sad. Not mad... but sad.
So they took their last $5, and they put it under the windshield wiper of the woman's car.
The next hour was spent taking the toys to Crisis Nursery, and the pet goodies to a drop-off point.
And since? They've been deciding what else they need to do... money be damned. They still want to bring stuffed animals to kids in the hospital. They want to make care packages for the military. And they still want to feed all of the children in Africa.
And something tells me these girls just might pull it off.
It's a strange dichotomy that goes on specifically this time of year. For most of us, adults and children alike, we are either caught up in the consumerism of buying more, or downtrodden because of another Christmas that we are unable to afford the things we'd like to give.
But every now and again, life, or karma, or God, or Santa shows us that as long as we keep our eyes and our hearts open, we may just find ourselves participating in an unfolding miracle. And to me, miracles are transforming events that never truly leave us the same way again.
And as last Saturday showed, they arrive in all forms. This one just happened to be in the shape of a Benjamin, given by a pick-up driving fat man with a beard...