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Revelations column: Show Christmas generosity all year long

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 9, 2011 at 6:09 a.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2011 at 6:10 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

'Tis the season for generosity, piety, Santa Claus, lighted festivals, Christmas tree decorating, church-going, and all-around cheerfulness, right?

Christmas is always my favorite time of year, but as I get older, the hurried days of shopping and festivities leading up to the big present exchange and turkey dinner shindig have often overshadowed the reason for the season. I don't need to explain the reason, right? Good.

It seems with each passing year, the commercialized version of Christmas becomes a belaboring chore - the long lines, busy malls, pricey airfare, gift wrapping and dizzying party schedules.

I realized last week, I was only a few weeks into the month and was already growing faint with Christmas obligations. I used to use this time of year to slow down and rest my mind, and reflect on the Lord's love for me, and provision for me throughout the year. But this year, I wasn't doing that. My mind has been cluttered with too many to-dos, for far too long.

I was forced to slow down and reflect last Sunday, when my car battery died on U.S. Highway 59 about 11 p.m.

Two hours earlier, sitting at my desk preparing to leave work for the night, the police scanners indicated a charter bus collided with a moving vehicle on U.S. Highway 59.

The wreck sounded serious, so the photographer and I raced out the door to track it down. We arrived at the wreck scene to find the highway littered with fire and law enforcement vehicles, a bus loaded with about 50 people, and car in disrepair. The driver of the car suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to the hospital, and it seemed all the bus passengers were physically uninjured.

Earlier in the day, three different people had been unusually short tempered with me. And at the wreck scene, I received a few more biting responses to my questions. My attitude was beginning to shift to the dark side.

The cops at the scene were understandably frustrated with me; there was a lot of chaos and the nosy media isn't usually their first priority. But after a long day of dealing with snippy attitudes, and feeling pressure from my looming deadline, I was growing frustrated that the wreck was taking longer than normal to wrap up.

After two hours, we were finally able to head back to the office.

We hopped in the car, preparing to leave, and realized something was wrong. I turned the key to the ignition, and was met with a ticking noise.

"My battery is dead," I said to the photographer.

Still on deadline, I jumped out of the car and started asking the policemen for jumper cables.

Even though I'd been up under them the entire night, asking for details, bugging them for information, and most likely driving them all crazy, the policemen immediately started asking around for jumper cables.

A few minutes later, Victoria Police Lt. Jason Cross came to the rescue.

"I've got cables," he said.

But we weren't out of the clear yet. Apparently jumping my little go-cart Miata from a police car would make one of our engines explode, or something.

So, the photographer called our interactivity editor to see if she'd meet us at the scene. And at 11 p.m., hours after leaving work, she agreed to jump my car.

In the meantime, I was reporting the wreck information via cell phone to my boss, who was relaying the information to our delivery desk.

As we waited for help to arrive, Lt. Cross waited with us on the side of the highway in the freezing cold, to make sure we were properly rescued. He didn't have to, no one asked him to. He just did.

And as the three of us stood around making small talk on the highway, a random stranger drove by and asked if we were OK. He apparently knew some of the people on the charter bus and was driving by to make sure they were OK, as well.

Unsure how long it would take the interactivity editor to arrive, I asked the stranger if he would jump my car.

"Sure," he said. "You got cables?"

Not five minutes later, the stranger pulled his car around and Lt. Cross attached the jumper cables to our cars.

I turned the engine over, and smiled big. "OK, let's go," I said.

Before pulling away, however, I ran over to the stranger and asked him his name.

"Raleigh Prince," he said, as I shook his hand and thanked him for his kindness.

I turned to Cross and shook his hand, thanking him again for waiting with us and providing the day-saving jumper cables.

We arrived at the office, edited the story - and you all had the information ready for you the following morning.

Every day since Sunday, when I've found myself growing frustrated with my week, I've thought of everyone who stepped forward that night to help me - for no other reason, except to be kind. And the best part is, I'm absolutely convinced that none of their kindness was inspired by the holiday season, at least it didn't appear to be that night. Their actions imply everyone involved would have likely stepped forward in kindness any other time of the year.

Isn't that the exact definition of the "Christmas spirit?" A purposeful act of generosity without expectation of reward.

So, thank you all again for your kindness that night. And for reminding me that the Christmas spirit doesn't have to be a December thing.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com.

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