by Wayne (Tony) Mabes
Blue Ridge, Texas, USA
As a youngster I lived in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and attended the local elementary school. Money was scarce in my family, mainly because my father had been disabled in a coal mine cave-in. Christmas was a particularly painful time for my family. My parents agonized about how they could give us kids gifts for Christmas. Of course, participating in the tradition of “drawing names” in school to exchange gifts with other children was not a possibility. For me, there were no talks with friends about who got whose name and “what were you gonna get” for that kid. I felt so left out.
But the most painful part came on the day when the long-awaited gifts were brought to school for exchange and I had none to give — and I knew that I alone would not receive a gift. I knew, as well as an eight year old kid could know, this was just another thing that I would miss out on because my family was poor. The party started and the opening of the gifts was the first order of business. Our teacher picked up the first gift and read my name! I was so excited!
This happened three more times during my elementary years. And, years later, I found that the gifts came from Mrs. Lilly, the mother of Griffin, one of my classmates. And I was not the only child to whom she had given gifts — there were several others.
I now live far away from the hills of West Virginia and far away from the poverty I had suffered as a child. Her kindness and generosity made a deep impression on me and I try often to recognize, as she did, other people’s needs and to help them as well. And in 1997, while visiting family “back home”, I stopped by and thanked Mrs. Lilly personally. But now, I’d like to let the whole world know that “there’s gold in them thar hills.” It is Griffin Lilly’s mother.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.