Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Teen angels

Fifty teen and little angels, shepherds, cherub carolers, children playing the roles of assorted animals – and Mary and Joseph, plus 5-week-old Charlotte Ross Hening as the Baby Jesus – waited to make their appearance at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salem on Sunday morning.

The church was full of awe (and aaahhhs) and wonder shone all around us in the church that was overflowing, with all the pews filled and adults sitting on folding chairs and standing.

The real Christmas arrived in Salem churches over the weekend. I hope you had a chance to experience it.

And while we’re on the subject of good kids, I hope you know that today’s teenagers don’t care only about the latest iPod, app or top singer.

Don’t be fooled, though. There are plenty of caring ones out there.

Take Laura Leonard, a 15-year-old Glenvar High School student, for instance. Laura remembered what it was like when her late grandfather was wasting away from dementia, and she noticed other older people lived in a shrinking world of family and friends.

So she organized other Glenvar students to collect small gifts for residents of the Joseph C. Thomas Center at Richfield Retirement Community.

Four days before Christmas, the teenagers and Laura’s seventh-grade brother, Jack, delivered individual gift bags for each of the center’s 92 residents.

Read the details in this week’s Salem Times-Register’s front page story.

This wasn’t a club activity. It was just something on the heart of Laura Leonard, to make sure that every resident got Christmas presents, whether or not they had family to visit and remember them.

Our world is in a good place with young people such as Laura Leonard and her friends coming along.

More Christmas miracles

If you read my column last week, you learned about a local educator whose heart is similarly full for people who need help. She talked about how when there is a need, people usually show up to fill it.

Earlier this week, I had a message on my voice mail from a man who was new to the area, saying he and his wife wanted to give to a local charity and wanted suggestions.

I immediately thought of the Salem Food Pantry, an of the school lady who knows people with needs by name and face. So I referred him to her, and, in those amazing coincidences that aren’t, she had just received a call from a mother living in a motel whose food stamp allotment had been cut. She needed food money.

And then the clincher, on a related topic: She said: “We had been expecting someone to bring bicycles for little children. One came in that was way too big. I called the mother of a special needs boy who is large for his age. She started crying, and said, ‘My son told me he wanted a bicycle for Christmas, and I had to tell him we couldn’t afford one.’ ” And then, there was the unexpected bicycle. The mother went to the school immediately and picked up the bike, crying tears of joy.

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