Christmas Day is upon us and as we celebrate this beautiful season, I wish you a blessed and wonderful day of remembering the first Christmas.
I also want to express my heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who has had a part in making BlessBack turn from a dream into a published book. I could not have done it without your support and encouragement. Thank you for buying the book, reading it and passing along your good words about it. Thanks to new friends both in the United States and in the United Kingdom for reading and reviewing my book. Thanks to fellow bloggers for hosting my guest blogs on your site. I am so grateful to you all. As a special thank you, for today only, Christmas Day, you can download the Kindle version of BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life for free on Amazon.
Today’s blog is one that will bring a tear to the eye. The guest blog is a touching story about a paperboy at Christmas. It is written by Bruce Hillyer. Bruce was born and raised in south Minneapolis, but delivered papers in Edina. He is pastor at Hope Church in Richfield, works with many ethnic churches, has been married to Cindy for 29 years and they have two children, Madeleine and Sam. Hope you enjoy this precious story!
A First Christmas as a Paperboy
by Bruce Hillyer
On my first Sunday of delivering newspapers in December of 1972 I stuffed a Christmas card in each of the comic sections as I assembled the Sunday papers. I was eleven, had recently taken on a paper route, and I had been advised by a seasoned twelve-year-old to give my customers a Christmas card.
“Go to Snyder’s Drugstore, “ he instructed. “Get eighty of the cheap, boxed cards and sign them, ‘Merry Christmas. Your paperboy, Bruce Hillyer’. Make sure you spell out your last name so they will know how to spell your name if they want to write out a check for a tip.”
It was 1972, and I was 11. (I was finally old enough to deliver newspapers). On my block in the very southwest corner of Minneapolis there was eight boys the same age as me. Eight out of eight delivered the Minneapolis Star or the Minneapolis Tribune.
I delivered the newspaper seven days a week, every week of the year. Plus, every other week, I went to each house to collect payments for the paper. It was $1.80 for two weeks delivery. I went every other Thursday evening and knocked on each door, said, “Collect,” and watched my customers go off to find their money. Most paid in cash, some by check.
That first Sunday, I did as the other carrier had told me. His advice made sense; perhaps a Christmas wish would bring some extra cash. I bought the cards. I signed them, “Merry Christmas. Your paperboy, Bruce Hillyer.” I stuffed them in each Sunday paper. Then on the following Thursday evening, I went door to door and collected payment. It seemed to me that the cards worked. I got tips of 50 cents, and even a dollar. I hadn’t collected before, but I judged that these were larger tips than I would usually be getting. A few people even thanked me for the cards.
Then I went to Mrs. Johnson’s house. She was around seventy, lived in one of the few houses that had an attached garage. She was tiny and lived alone. I knocked and said, “Collect.”
She invited me to step inside the doorway. “Come in and warm up for a minute.”
I did and stood in the warmth of the entryway of her living room. I closed the door and she went off a few steps to her bedroom to get her money.
Just before she turned in the hallway she stopped and turned back (and in my memory she had a slight tear but many years may have added that idea) and she said, “And thank you for the card.”
As she continued to the room I looked around the house and there across the room, above her fireplace, sat my Christmas card, alone, on the mantel. I was the only person to send her a greeting.
I felt terrible. I was a Christian boy, maybe a young one, but I knew somehow I shouldn’t have sent an insincere greeting to Mrs. Johnson, especially at Christmas. Even though there wasn’t specific instructions in the Bible about how to send Christmas cards, I still knew it wasn’t a good thing that I let a lonely woman mistake my mercenary card as something gracious on my part.
Mrs. Johnson returned, gave me $2.00 and said, “Keep the change.”
I thanked her and said, “Merry Christmas.” As I walked along house to house that evening I decided that I would never send an insincere card or greeting again.
I kept that paper route for four years. The following year I went to Snyders and bought eighty cards and signed them with a “Merry Christmas.” The difference was that in 1973 I meant it.