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We’ve never seen a holiday season like 2020.

Many extended families are not gathering in person. Travel plans have been put on hold. Even spiritual observances are taking place virtually.

On the flipside, a number of you — like me — started decorating early. There’s something about those bright lights that is so inspiring!

It may be a little harder to find the magic of the season this year, although challenging times can often bring out the best in us.

I’m reminded of a classic story, as well as a personal heartfelt experience, that point the way to finding holiday magic in your heart.

The white teddy bear

There’s nothing like helping someone else out, especially during this season, that can help take your mind off your own problems.

Do a favor for an elderly neighbor. Pay ahead at the fast-food window for the car behind you. Pop some change into an expired parking meter.

You may be saying, “But they’ll never know who helped them out.” That’s precisely the point. It’s not about getting credit. It’s about the pure intention of giving.

Several years ago I was in a store, contemplating the purchase of a fuzzy, white teddy bear. I decided to get it. On the way out, I overheard a clerk saying she wanted to get the same bear for her daughter but didn’t feel like she could spend the money at that time.

Something deep inside urged me to turn around and go back into the store. I ended up buying another teddy bear and asked the cashier in that department to take it over to the other employee and tell her it was from Santa. I hid behind some store dividers to see her expression — and left the store with such a warm feeling.

She never knew the gift was from me. And it didn’t matter. I just knew I was doing a little something to put a smile on her face — and brighten her daughter’s holiday. To this day, I never pick up that fuzzy white teddy bear in our spare bedroom without recalling that incident.

And that’s priceless!

The red jacket

This classic story about an 8-year-old boy was passed along most recently by my friend, Sallie Hart. Told in the boy’s own words, it speaks volumes:

“I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit Grandma on the day my brother dropped the bomb that there is no Santa Claus. I knew Grandma would be straight with me. She always told the truth.

“’No Santa Claus?’ Grandma snorted. ‘Ridiculous! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me so mad. Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.’

“’Go where, Grandma?’ I asked. ‘Where’ turned out to be Kirby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of everything. As we walked in, Grandma handed me $10. That was a bundle in those days. ‘Take this money,’ she said, ‘and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.’

“I was only eight years old. I had never shopped all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded. I just stood there, clutching that $10 bill, wondering what to buy. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, friends, neighbors, the kids at school and my friends at church.

“Then I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair; and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s second grade class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. He never went out at recess during the winter; and his mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher he had a cough. But all of us kids knew he didn’t have a cough; he just didn’t have a good coat.

“I decided right then and there I would buy Bobby Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy coat that had a hood. It looked really warm, and I thought he’d like that.

“‘Is this a Christmas present?’ the lady behind the counter asked, as I laid down my $10. ‘Yes, ma’am,’ I replied. ‘It’s for Bobby.’ I told her how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

“That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat and wrote on the package: ‘To Bobby, from Santa Claus.’ A little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible.

“Grandma said Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining that I was now and forever, officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

“Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. ‘All right, Santa Claus,’ she whispered, ‘get going.’

“I dashed to Bobby’s front door, put the present on his step, knocked on the door and flew back to the bushes beside Grandma. The door opened, and there stood Bobby.

“Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were — ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team!

“I still have Grandma’s Bible, with the coat’s price tag tucked inside: $19.95.”

May you always have love to share, health to spare and friends that care. And may you always believe in the magic of the season.

©2020 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org For information about her books, go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.