When I was a paperboy a long time ago, I enjoyed doing something different with my daily deliveries of the news on Christmas mornings.
It was a way for a junior high school kid to contribute a token extra something to his customers and a few others in the neighborhood that were not subscribers.
If I were a paperboy today, the objective of such a simple gesture could not be achieved.
My alarm clock was set for 4:30 a.m. in those days, as I had to get dressed, mount my bicycle and head for the pick-up station to retrieve my bundle of about 150 newspapers.
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There were only 20 or so houses on my route that didn’t subscribe to the paper. Almost everyone began their day with an actual physical version of the news and events they needed to know about.
On Christmas, I ordered enough extra copies so I could deliver one to every home even though that included some for which I would receive no payment.
I didn’t consider it to be a gift. It was the message on the front page I wanted to share with everyone.
My daily practice was to place every paper at the doorstep of every house.
It was a customer service exercise that my father had instructed me would be something people would appreciate.
He was right, as I received lots of compliments and often a tip when I made my monthly rounds of collecting the $2.95 bill for 30 days of newspapers.
I usually tossed them on the porch without too much regard for whether they landed with the headlines facing the recipient when he or she reached to pick it up.
But on Christmas morning, I was more precise.
I placed the papers so that the front page above the fold was squared up exactly. That was so when someone opened the door they would immediately be able to read the greeting across the top of the page.
It always said, “Merry Christmas,” in big, bold type. You couldn’t miss it.
Whatever else was going on in the houses that morning, that wonderful communication of the year’s most special day was delivered to everyone.
My motivation was to share the familiar expression because it was (and is) two of the most celebratory words in the world.
As I got older, its meaning grew. And it continues to do so.
I recently attended the funeral for the son of two friends experiencing the deepest grief of their lives. Their boy was only 22, an outstanding young man with a promising future just ahead.
They were expecting to welcome him home from college in just a few days as he returned to join his family during the Christmas break.
Instead, they laid him to rest in a cemetery.
Like everyone else, I wondered what could be said to comfort his suffering parents. There just aren’t any words that can really help very much.
But there is the reality of a reunion some day.
That is the promise of the one whose birth that is celebrated on Christmas by more than eight of every 10 Americans across our country.
I honor and respect the religious preferences of others who do not share my own beliefs.
So, I wish Merry Christmas to all without any intention of offending anyone. My objective in doing so is just the opposite.
And I wish newspapers still put those two words that are held so dear by so many across the top of their front pages on Christmas — like they used to do.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.