By Art Remillard
Pardon me if I sound like a Grinch, but I hate Christmas. Perhaps I should be more specific: I hate the annual celebration of greed that begins in November runs through December. In its most primitive form, the idea of Christmas is rather inspiring. During this season, we are called to mimic the spirit of Saint Nicholas of Myra – a fourth century bishop who selflessly and anonymously gave to those most in need. Unfortunately, unfettered commercialism often overshadows this basic intention. We’ve all seen the video clips from Wal-Mart where Soccer Moms push over NASCAR Dads to retrieve the ever-so-fashionable thing that supposedly promises true happiness, fulfillment, and contentment for a friend, family member, or loved one. These images make me feel like Saint Nicholas’s spirit of generosity has disappeared from Christmas much like defense has disappeared from an NBA regular season game.
I can’t be pessimistic for too long, however, because I have the good fortune of belonging to the Gulfwinds Track Club. When I reflect on the club, and more importantly, the people in it, I’m often reminded of Mother Teresa’s words. “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” I believe this captures the part Saint Nicholas’s legacy that tells us there is inherent worth in the simple act of giving. I first encountered the club’s great love when one of its most admired members, Tim Simpkins, was diagnosed with cancer. Admittedly, since I was new to the area, I didn’t know Tim very well. Nevertheless, when I proposed holding a daylong relay to raise money and awareness, many others thought it was a good idea and offered to help. By default, I became the event’s director, but I really didn’t do that much. When the spirit of the club took over, the event blossomed in ways that I never could have imagined. It was an amazing day. Genuine kindness lingered in the air while we ran and prayed for our friend.
I have since come to realize that the generosity feeding the “Ten for Tim” relay is a deeply entrenched virtue in the club. Consider, for example, Gary Droze, who at least once a week takes time from his already frenetic schedule to direct speed workouts. He offers support, advice, encouragement, and, of course, a unique sense of humor. Likewise, the Galloway-esque efforts of Julie Clark are quite extraordinary. In a time when obesity is a national epidemic, she manages to encourage more and more people to get off the couch and on the road. John Kalin is another club treasure. John would drop everything at a moment’s notice to guide anyone through a wooded trail, all the while providing a lively conversation. David and Mary Jean Yon’s contributions are too many to list, but the Turkey Trot stands out as one of their greatest accomplishments. This has become magnificent celebration of fitness and benevolence. Bill Lott occupies a space of his own within the club’s spirit of great love. Anyone who has been to a race – any race – knows that volumes could be written on Bill’s volunteerism.
There are many omissions on my list. This fact alone testifies to the club’s widespread commitment to true generosity – a commitment that mimics those inspiring qualities of Christmas all year long. “Pessimism be gone!” I think to myself this Christmas season. That is, until I go to a Wal-Mart or watch an NBA game.