Elves With Coal Dust On Faces

I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa Claus sometimes goes home from the toy workshop with coal dust on his face. I know for a fact some of his elves do.

John Miller, who lives in Mount Olivet, is an officer of Local 1473 of the United Mine Workers of America. One day five years ago, he was driving to work on a cold day when he noticed a child outside a school. “He didn’t have a coat, but I did have a coat on and I wanted to do something about it,” Miller told our reporter for a story we published on Thanksgiving Day.

Scores of individuals, churches, organizations and businesses do something about needy children and families during the winter months. It’s the Christmas spirit.

Local 1473 members so more than something. They do everything, with help from Boscov’s department stores, Trinity Lutheran Church in South Wheeling, Christ Lutheran Church in Mozart and Align HR.

Children at eight schools in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties get receive coats through the UMWA campaign. Principals supply lists of how many coats of what sizes and whether the children are boys or girls. Miller and his knee-pad wearing elves do the rest.

What, you ask, happens when they run out of money? They just don’t.

“It doesn’t matter how many they need,” Miller noted. “If they need 50 coats, we get them 50 coats.”

As much as I like Christmas miracles, this isn’t one of them. This is men and women deciding that no little boy is going to shiver in the cold because his parents can’t afford a coat. This is our neighbors deciding no little girl will be afraid to go out and play in the snow because it’s too cold outside.

It’s an attitude that must be infectious. Folks involved in other Christmas season projects to aid the needy have it, too. Every family in our area will enjoy Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, they’ve decided. Santa Claus will visit every child in the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio.

Maybe it is a miracle — but it’s one you and I have to make happen. These things cost money. It has to come out of our pockets.

Here’s the thing: Donating to one or more of the campaigns to help children and families at Christmas is an entirely selfish act, at least on my part. I’m guessing many others have the same attitude.

Why? Because it makes our Christmas mornings warmer and brighter. Don’t look at it as “giving till it hurts.” Think about it as giving till you feel good.

Think about a little boy laughing while he throws snowballs — and having to unzip his new coat just a bit, because it’s too warm.

Think about a little girl’s face when, after weeks of hearing there may be no visit from Santa this year, she gets up on Christmas morning to find under the tree a brightly-wrapped package containing that one present for which she’d been hoping.

Get a mental picture in your head of children smiling.

Then, when you hear of someone trying to make that happen, dig deeply into your pocket and make it happen.

If you don’t, it won’t.

Many of us decorate our homes, put once-a-year food on the table and listen to carols to get ourselves into the Christmas spirit. There may be something else we can do:

Find a little coal dust and rub it on your cheek. I’ll bet the members of UMWA Local 1473 can tell you where to find some.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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