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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book One Anxious Li'l Elf
by Brus, Brian
Right Book

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Language: English

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So there I was, one anxious li'l elf up to my jingle bells in gifts at my North Pole workshop, just hours before the reindeer-loading deadline ...
''Brian, women's underwear go over here; put men's boxers over there,'' Ella Mae Glenn said, waving a pair of overalls at the cardboard boxes behind her.

Being an elf isn't always about playing with toys, I've learned. Sometimes elves have to sort clothes. Sometimes elves have to rip apart cooked turkeys (more on that later).

That's because only Santa Claus can magically appear on Christmas eve. The rest of the holiday has to be prepared by real people like me and Glenn. (OK, maybe I live in a fantasy world, but Glenn is definitely real.)

That's what we were doing one morning at the Christmas Connection store in southwest Oklahoma City. Ya' see, on Dec. 17-21, about 1,700 referred, needy families will be let inside to ''shop'' the shelves for free clothes, toys and food. Volunteers will walk each person through the building (actually the old Langston store at 325 SW 25) and help pull items to match their needs lists.

Now how do you think those shelves were stocked? Yep -- Elvis.

Oops. That was a typo. And everyone knows Elvis is a mythical character anyway. Actually, elves do the work.

After considerate people drop donated items at the store, a virtual army of volunteer elves begins its assault on the pile of goodies. Just think of these people as the Christmas Corps of Engineers, creating order from chaos.

It's rare that I put away my own clothes -- I usually just wear them right out of the laundry basket. But after 10 Christmas Connections, executive director Bob Witter knows all the tricks for drafting new help. In my case, he told me I would be working in the ''nerve center.''

I was hooked immediately. All men have a secret desire to work in a ''nerve center.'' It's a genetic drive we're born with, I think.

I remember mother used to tell me, ''Go clean up your room, Brian.''

''It's not a room, mom. It's a NERVE CENTER,'' I'd whine.

''Whatever. Just make sure you put up your clothes. You might be able to use that skill for the betterment of mankind some day,'' she would reply. And, boy, was mother right!

Veteran volunteers like Ella Mae Glenn sort, clean, repair, hang and fold clothes. They organize boxes of hangars. They size shoes. They measure belts. They budget the entire stock to last all five Christmas Connection days so that each visiting family will leave with gifts.

''It's worth every day I'm here just so that I can see the families when we open the doors,'' Glenn said, hanging up a child's coat. ''I can't help but cry.''

Which leads us to the turkey mentioned above.

If working in a clothing ''nerve center'' doesn't tickle your fancy, then I suggest going to the Myriad Convention Center Auxiliary Hall on Christmas morning to join other elves in the kitchen.

Nothing will bring tears to your eyes as quickly as toasting every nerve on your hand in an oven-hot turkey.

Imagine a group of complete strangers, joined together in song and merriment for one brief, harmonious morning of turkey deboning. THAT is what Christmas is all about!

That's just one part of it, of course. The truth is that the annual Red Andrews Christmas Dinner serves from 4,000 to 6,000 turkey-and-dressing dinners to people who would otherwise miss out on something the rest of us can buy at a restaurant. It's easily the largest such meal in the metro area, and possibly the entire Southwest. People begin lining up outside the Myriad door a long time before they open at 9:30 a.m.

My wife, Stephanie, and I are hooked on the entire free turkey/candy/toys scenario. In the last few years, I've disassembled enough turkeys to earn a doctorate in fowl physiology. (But I have yet to learn the lyrics to ''Feliz Navidad,'' the traditional kitchen elves song. Someone send me the words, please.)

These are only two examples of community holiday events that help spread your good feelings to people less fortunate. We can't all donate money, but we can share something else -- ourselves. The tricky part is to think of doing it BEFORE the event.

Barbara understood this. The 20-year-old woman came in to the Christmas Connection store the morning I was making a mess of the stock room, and asked if she could help.

Barbara is pregnant for the first time. Her husband is looking for a job. But she wanted to do something to help because her family has visited the Christmas Connection before: ''I just wanted to give something back,'' she said. (She asked that I not print her last name.)

Ho ho ho to the rest of us.

P.S. Lest you think the spirit of Christmas ends that day, don't forget that Santa's elves also have to clean up and turn out the lights.

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