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Darrell Berkheimer: Can we battle one pandemic with another?

I was a Zimmerman driver for nearly seven years. And each year the company offered drivers holiday gifts, including lightweight, warm jackets. I acquired two of the jackets – one red and one black. The red one was worn mostly in December, when I also donned a red, Santa Claus stocking cap.

Is it possible to create a pandemic of holiday spirit?

I suspect if there’s any place where that’s possible, it’s at the twin cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, where residents contribute to so many dozens of nonprofit agencies.

This is the one time of the year when good cheer is rampant almost everywhere. But we know it’s been much more difficult this year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting every portion of our lives — and bringing grief to many families.



The situations created by the pandemic have caused as least some distress in every household — some much more than others. And that has resulted in increased demands on the services provided by our local nonprofits.

So this year, after promising something more positive in today’s commentary, I searched the catacombs of my mind to see what cheery topics I might bring forth. Mostly my search resulted with old ideas that have served well.



Again, this year, I did my bit to support our U.S. Postal Service by mailing another 100-plus holiday greeting cards created on my home printer.

It’s a tradition I started nearly 30 years ago when one of my cross-country moves took me away from many friends I had met. And I’ve continued it every year since to let many folks know I’m thinking about them and care about them, even though our contacts might be limited to the annual year-end greetings.

I begin the process of printing the cards and checking mailing addresses the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving. The 10- to 12-day process helps put me into the holidays spirit and begins the difficult task of trying to determine what to give Mary for Christmas.

Neither of us really needs anything. We usually buy whatever we need or want as the weeks and months go by during the year.

So this year I suggested we combine the money we might spend on each other with a somewhat larger than normal contribution to a local nonprofit. Mary was quick to agree; but then admitted she already had acquired a couple small items for me — like the chocolate-coated cashews I enjoy.

Swapping a couple little items like that I can easily handle. It’s the difficulty of trying to discover something major to give Mary. And that I will escape this year. Hallelujah!

I also recalled a cheery holiday story I hadn’t shared with local readers before. It’s something I used to do in December during the last two or three years of driving big red trucks coast to coast for Zimmerman Truck Lines out of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

I was a Zimmerman driver for nearly seven years. And each year the company offered drivers holiday gifts, including such items as dufflebags and lightweight, warm jackets. I acquired two of the jackets — one red and one black. I still have the black one.

The red one was worn mostly in December, when I also donned a red Santa Claus stocking cap.

I will always remember some of the cars with kids in them who spotted me as their cars passed my truck. I could see their mouths working as they obviously were shouting and pointing up or back at me as they slowly passed by. Of course I smiled and waved.

And then at the truck stops, I said, “I am not Santa — just one of his elves.”

I explained that “Santa’s sleigh isn’t big enough to carry all the gifts he must distribute. So he needs elves like me to deliver some of those gifts to strategic points along his route.”

I could see that the parents at the truck stops enjoyed hearing me tell that story as much as their kids did.

I know how much I enjoyed doing that.

It was a fleeting event for each parent, with one or two kids, who heard me tell that tale. But for me, it was something I enjoyed over and over again as I repeated it at another truck stop to other parents and their kids.That enjoyment continues for me every time I think about it.

It emphasizes how much more we can enjoy a giving experience each time we recall the incident, compared to the fleeting joy of receiving something.

And I’m smiling now as I tell the story.

The smiling also reminds me of something I copied years ago from a Dale Carnegie book. He wrote it’s impossible to smile and make someone else feel better and not feel better yourself.

Then he cited a sign about “A Smile” that a shop owner posted. It said:

— It costs nothing, but creates much.

— It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who gave.

— It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

— None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

— It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.

— It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble.

— Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away!

So let’s raise our year-end cheer factor to a pandemic level — by whatever technique we can imagine — to negate some of the blues created by COVID-19.

And Happy Holidays to all!

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.

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