More than just ‘shopping’ this day


Some days are just easier than others.

I can’t remember how many times I heard my parents say that.

I definitely agree with them.

We’re getting into the short rows of 2021.

The one good thing I can say about this year is I’ve seen a trend in kindness and I’ve viewed it first-hand on several occasions.

I hope that continues for 2022.

At least, that’s my wish.

It’s humbling and heart-breaking when you see people helping those in times of need.

You fight back tears when people share their stories about trying to find their next meal or finding a warm place to either sleep or escape the cold.

Years ago, I went on a church-sponsored bus trip with a very dear friend.

I knew the group planned to spend the day shopping for Christmas gifts. I explained I had very little cash on hand and just hoped to find some unique presents for my family.

“Oh, we’re not shopping for ourselves,” my friend said.

Seconds later, a bus pulled up beside us.

The doors opened and a group of kids ranging in different ages stepped into the cool air.

Some had coats.

Others didn’t.

They were from a small orphanage operated by a private Catholic church that I won’t name. Each child wore a name tag, so we spent a few minutes shaking hands and introducing ourselves.

We each picked out a “buddy” and walked into the warm shopping mall, which I won’t name, either. A giant Christmas tree stood in the center and you could barely see its colorful lights due to envelopes hanging from the branches.

About a month earlier, the church had donated gift cards – one for each child – to the orphanage. We searched for my buddy’s name, opened the envelope, read the gift card and headed for the toy store.

Kinda perfect, since I’m a kid at heart sometimes.

I think we looked twice at every puzzle, game, stuffed animal, remote-control toy and other stuff the store had that I don’t know how to describe. He finally settled on this really cool, remote-controlled 4-wheel truck that was nearly as big as him.

We headed to the register.

The cashier stepped around to scan the price.

The gift card didn’t cover the toy’s cost.

My “buddy” looked up at me.

The chaperone, who accompanied us, encouraged him to search for a less expensive toy. He slowly walked back around the store and when neither he nor the chaperone could see me, I told the cashier to “ring it up.”

I paid the difference.

When they returned with another toy, I told my “buddy” to look at the door. His eyes lit up as Santa walked toward him and bellowed out one of the loudest “Ho, Ho, Ho’s” I think I’ve ever heard in my life.

Seconds later, I tapped on my “buddy’s” shoulder and pointed toward the brightly-wrapped box at my side.

“My truck?” he asked.

I choked out a “Merry Christmas!”

His hug said the rest.

Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. You can reach him at


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