Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas lonely for some

December 19, 2007


Every year that I write this column I try to do something special for the Christmas holidays. Over the years, I've tried serious columns and comic columns, columns with poetry and columns about law cases. But this year, I want to write this column about something I found in a box of old letters and papers I purchased recently at a local estate auction.

As regular readers of this column know, I'm a compulsive estate sale and auction visitor. One of the things I most enjoy purchasing are old documents, letters, and cards. For the most part, these are about business or travel. Occasionally, however, documents are more personal. These are very special to me.

First, I suppose I feel a bit sad that documents such as letters that were important enough to someone to keep have been discarded either because the family no longer cares about them or because there is no family left. Second, these documents are often the only tangible witnesses to someone's life. I feel that these deserve special care and treatment and when I get these, I keep them safe so that these slices of people's lives will not be lost forever.

In a recent box I purchased I found an old Christmas card. Now it is a faded green with a paper lace border. Like so many cards of the early 1900s, this one bears a simple message of good wishes for the season on the front. But there is no address on the outside of the card's envelope. The explanation for this is found in the inside in the inscription.

The card was written by someone who signed herself simply as "Jenna." The message is full of pathos but also hope: "to the father I've never met, Merry Christmas." I can imagine a young girl sitting at a kitchen table by a warm stove a hundred years ago, writing this card to the parent she has never met but so desperately wishes to know. It must have been hard for her that winter day, knowing that she couldn't mail the card to her lost father, for she had no address. But she kept it, perhaps her whole life, as a tangible memento of her love for her absent parent and, also, perhaps, in the hope that someday she might, indeed, be able to deliver it in person. Like the best Christmas stories, the story of this faded card is about love and longing and faith and hope.

Christmas is a family holiday. It is a joyous time of renewal of faith and love and hope for the new year soon to come. But we shouldn't forget that there are many folks who are alone this Christmas, who have lost or never known those who were dear to them. And, so, for Christmas this year, I urge you to open your hearts and your homes to someone who, like Jenna who wrote this ancient card, may be alone this Christmas and make Christmas special for them as well.

I wish you all happy holidays and a joyous new year.

P.S. I am reminded by my good friend Paul Bahnmaier that the deadline for voting for Lecompton's Constitution Hall to be included as one of the "Eight Wonders of Kansas" is fast approaching. If you haven't already done so, go to and vote for Constitution Hall by Dec. 31. Thanks from all of us who live in Lecompton.

- Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


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