Christmastime seems to bring out the best in people. It somehow makes people want to go beyond the call of duty to help others.
According to dictionary.com, an unsung hero is a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognized contribution. There are millions of them; this column is about one whose generosity made an impact for about 100 children this Christmas.
Gail Smith, a former New Yorker and mother of four, wanted to teach her children the true meaning of Christmas. So she took away $25 from the money she would have spent on each of her kids' Christmas gifts and bought 100 teddy bears. She planned to have her children give them to other children who are having a rough time this Christmas.
"Upon telling my children of the goal this year, they all agreed and wanted to help," Smith said. "Some have done the counting, ribbon attaching, bagging (and so on). ... This is one thing I have instilled in my children from Day 1: No matter how bad your situation may be, there will be always someone in a worse situation that will need your help."
She and her children originally wanted to distribute the bears at a local hospital, but they were turned down. Because of the H1N1 virus, no one under 18 is allowed to visit there. So she called on her pastor, Ronald Taurel, to help.
Originally from New Jersey, Taurel recently started the Covenant Family Worship Center in his basement. Now the church meets at the Moss Creek clubhouse.
Together, Smith and Taurel found a group of children to whom they could give the bears.
"To date, I have donated a large amount of the bears to a battered women's shelter," Smith said. "They will distribute the bears to children that, due to certain circumstances, are no longer going back to the place they called home. Hopefully the bears will give the children some well-deserved comfort."
Whether it's a monetary donation, volunteer work at a shelter or something as simple as a teddy bear for a child who is struggling, one person can make a huge difference.
So many unsung heroes are out there - and not just at this time of year, but all year long. They are generous to others for no reason except that they choose to be. They are not looking for glory or fame; they are just trying to make the world a little better by reaching out to another human being.
"I, in no way, did this for me," Smith said. "I made that decision simply because at such a low in a child's life, sometimes they are compelled to look in only one direction: up. Hopefully the bears will not only remind them they are loved; it should help lead them in the right direction."