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The story behind a cherished Christmas tradition

There is nothing not to like about Kim, with whom I have enjoyed a special friendship that dates to the 1980s. In fact, Kim and her friend Tommy joined my wife and me just days ago for a play and dinner. We still keep in touch and so enjoy her cheerful, unpredictable, outspoken and lovingly candid way of life.

slocum
Chuck Slocum

Though we did not put a name on it at the time, researchers say that nonfamily youth mentoring research concludes that such supportive relationships between adults and young people can be important for personal, emotional, cognitive, and psychological growth.

Kim sure has done a good job with me for a long time; she is the reason that I have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas tradition, a very personal one that adds every year to my holiday good cheer. 

Fellow Presbyterians in the '80s

One time in the mid-80’s a group of mostly fellow Presbyterians were helping move Kim and her two older siblings and parents into their new home in Plymouth. The moving toil behind us, though with much work left to do for the family, we were all treated to her mother's delicious lasagna and some good time chatter together.

As the night time arrived and the party remained in full swing, I ended up volunteering to tuck little Kimmy in — each child had their own bedroom in the new place — and tell her a story aimed at hastening her slumber. It was a practice that I had honed with my own kids.

Weeks later — on Dec 23, 1984, to be exact — Kim’s mother called to remind me that her kindergarten-aged daughter had been telling her for weeks about my gift for her. I had promised Kim that she would get her very own homemade Christmas story from me, written just for her.

Kim was expecting it, I was told, at the Christmas Eve service the next night. I had, of course, forgotten all about it and had 24 hours to rectify the situation. 

Christmas Eve Day writing rush

On the morning of Dec. 24, while driving from my Minnetonka home to my office in downtown Minneapolis, I pulled out my hand held Dictaphone — remember those — and took a shot at ad libbing my first children's Christmas story written on paper.

In that first story, a girl Kim’s age is lost in the streets on Christmas Day after her mother had not returned home the day before. The lass, of course, meets a kindly old man, strangely resembling the white bearded man in red, who saves the day. At the end, they prayed together. 

Making of a personal tradition

It was the next year, I believe, that I began to copy and broadly circulate Kim’s Christmas stories to friends — young and old — and some of them were published.

There was one about young Matt and a lonely woman on a Christmas morning cab ride that my wife liked a great deal; others about Jaden and a clown, a pizza guy named Charley explaining to a boy named AT why Jesus and Santa are related, and Gramma Jenkins and her magical Christmas Eve with her three grandkids. You get the idea.

So, this year, as I pondered what to write about for my 2016 Children’s Christmas story, my 32nd one, I glanced through a file filled with all sorts of memories of stories written over the years.

None of those reflections, however, were more precious than remembering the little 5-year-old Kim and her enthusiasm about a gift that I almost forgot all about.

Chuck Slocum is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm; he is a long time Sunday School teacher who can be reached by e-mail Chuck@WillistonGroup.Com)

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