Many people throw around the term, “Christmas Spirit”, during this time of year to describe many a personal attribute. Some people look at it as a way for a person to express joy or happiness during the holiday season. Others believe it to be about being friendly to all people and spreading goodwill to all men. Today, I personally experienced exactly what “Christmas Spirit” is all about in its original sense, the compassion and charity that led a Bethlehem innkeeper to allow a pregnant woman and her husband rest on his land for a night free of charge, soley because he saw that they were tired from a long journey.
It is not a secret that I was laid off from my job managing a group home for abused and neglected children in Pottsville last March. I have been collecting unemployment ever since, scraping by paycheck to paycheck. At first, the time at home was great because I was able to concentrate on finishing law school, studying for the bar exam, and spending more time with my children. However, as the months have drawn on, it became harder and harder to make mortgage payments, car payments, car insurance, and utilitities. Add to that the birth of my son in September and my wife’s subsequent maternity leave, and you have a very dire financial situation.
I had always counted on obtaining a job as an attorney after passing the bar exam. However, the legal market here and around the country has dried up in the private sector, while the public sector is flooded with thousands of young attorneys my same situation, leading to less jobs everywhere. Becoming licensed gives any young attorney a leg up and some options to him. Unfortunately for me, even though I passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, I was notified recently that the issuance of my law license would be held up until the spring due to an unpaid debt from 6 years ago. The board told me that I needed to show them that I was in the process of resolving the debt by making at least 3 months worth of one time payments. So now, employment as an attorney is off the table.
You’d think that earning a J.D. would be a plus on any resume, but many non-legal employers believe that law school graduates are over-qualified for their employment. Those that don’t believe that they will never be able to meet the salary demands of an almost lawyer. So, going back to my old field is off the table as well.
Here I am, a law school graduate who has passed the bar and has loads of professional experience, but can’t find a job in the legal field or any field for that matter. With Christmas right around the corner, my wife and I began to panick about our inability to provide an adequate Christmas to our children.
Now, I am not a person who likes to ask for help, I have too much pride for that. But, I will accept it, if I really need it. However, in these economic times, we are not the only ones hurting. Many in this county and across the country are in the same or even more dire circumstance that us. So, help is not something I was expecting.
Funny thing about expectations: sometimes when you have lost hope and don’t have any, someone comes along and does something so spectacular that it would have exceeded all that you may have had if you had not lost hope. Today, this happened to me.
When I checked the mailbox this morning, there was a letter addressed to my wife and I, but it did not have a return address. I opened it to find a blank piece of paper. Inside the paper was a postal money order in the amount of $200.00 with a message on the bottom reading, “Merry Christmas”. Not surprisingly I was overcome with emotion.
The postmark of the letter said that it was mailed from Reading, PA, where my wife works as a caseworker. We don’t have any family there, nor has any family recently gone to Reading. The only people we know there are people that my wife works with and some college friends who stuck around after graduation.
In these financial times and being so close to the holidays, for someone to reach out to another family in their time of need with such a substantial amount of money, is totally staggering, especially in this day and age. I would like to express my extreme gratitude to this real-life “secret Santa”. I can barely express in words what this will mean to my family.
Jesus came into this world by an act of charity. He walked the earth spreading his message of charity to all who would listen. Christmas is about, more than anything else, a yearly celebration of that message. Clearly, someone was listening. Whoever you are, just know that your act of kindness is not lost on me. For you to bestow your personal charity upon me comes as close to a Christ-like action that I have seen.