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Christmas Cheer
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 • Posted December 30, 2009

The Christmas season is a time for giving. It seems easier, during this time of year, to give than it does at other times. Even if we can’t really afford to be all that generous. Sometimes even if we don’t know who we’re giving to.

There was a story in the news a couple of weeks ago about a couple who were paying for their meal at a restaurant, and decided to pay for another couple’s meal. They didn’t know the other couple, they just pointed them out to the cashier and said, "We’d like to pay for their food, too. And don’t tell them who it was."

When the second couple was done, and was told their meal was paid for, they paid another table’s check. When those people were done, they paid for another group’s food. The first couple started a chain reaction that went on for hours. That kind of thing seems to happen more at Christmas than any other time.

Some of us, of course, can afford to be more generous than others. Most people who have plenty, however, choose not to share with others. But even when they do share it seldom makes the six o’clock news. So I’d like to mention the stories of some generous people, who gave when they didn’t have to.

There was an email going around a while back that Denzel Washington, while at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio visiting soldiers wounded in the Middle East, wrote a check for $1 million to allow Fisher House to build a new facility. Fisher House provides housing for the families of wounded veterans so they can stay near their loved ones while they convalesce, at little or no expense.

Actually, Denzel Washington didn’t write a check on the spot, as the email said. He does visit wounded veterans, and he did make a substantial donation to Fisher House, but the amount has not been disclosed. Though I have no idea how much money Washington donated, the fact that he did is admirable. How much he gave is his business.

Another recent donor went a different route. We know how much he gave, but not who he or she was. After a Las Vegas police officer was killed in the line of duty in 2006, an anonymous donor plunked down $100,000 to be used to equip Las Vegas patrol cars with semiautomatic rifles. The police in Las Vegas had long been out-gunned by criminals, and someone wanted to help.

The same thing, pretty much, happened in Phoenix, except that we know who and how much. Police officers there were allowed to carry semiautomatic rifles but, like the officers in Vegas, had to purchase their own weapons. Consequently not many carried high-powered rifles in their police cars.

Actor David Spade, who grew up near Phoenix and graduated from Arizona State University, found out about the situation and donated $100,000 so the Phoenix Police Dept. could buy 50 AR-style rifles. When asked about his generosity, Spade said, "These guys need to be able to do their jobs and I’m just happy I could help."

Stephen King also wanted to help. King found out that 150 members of the 3

Actually, that’s not entirely true. King thought donating $13,000 might be unlucky, so he gave $12,999. His personal assistant, Julie Eugley, pitched in the other dollar. I guess when you’ve written as many horror stories as King has you get a little superstitious. Still, his generosity is admirable.

Sometimes, however, generosity can be misplaced. Carrie Underwood, who I understand is a singer, recently donated $200,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. Since HSUS is the world’s largest anti-hunting organization, and is working overtime to ban hunting and trapping in the U.S., this is not good news. Underwood gets high marks for intent, but an F in research and knowledge.

People, I believe, are basically good, and try to do the right thing most of the time. We generally try to help one another out, and that tendency seems to get an extra push at Christmastime. When we see Santa Claus in the mall or at the bank, and the delighted looks on the faces of the children sitting on his lap, it’s hard not to want to be the Big Guy, who goes around making everyone happy.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he doesn’t live at the North Pole. He lives in all of us. And that’s why we put on those extra pounds during the holidays . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never got a pony for Christmas. Thank goodness. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit, who had been called up and were in training at Camp Atterbury, in Indiana, were not going to be able to make it home for Christmas this year. These guys live in King’s home state of Maine, so he donated $13,000 so the soldiers, who will deploy to Afghanistan in January, would have transportation to be able to spend the holidays with their families.

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