Kindness prevails at Christmas

It’s the season to be jolly, even the Christmas carols say so.

Part of that jolly feeling comes from the kindness of people in the holiday season.

There are moments that kindness is obvious, like food and toy drives and the Angel Tree project, all of which help a lot of needy families have a Merry Christmas and/or start the New Year in a happy way.

There are also times it’s not so obvious, but sometimes even a little extra tip for a waitress or a Christmas card shows thought; and even the smallest thought goes a long way.

And while tie-dye clothes and Crocs may have only been in style for some time, a good heart has always been en vogue for the holiday season, take the origins story of NORAD’s Santa tracking.

The story, according to several articles, began Dec. 24, 1955, with NORAD’s predecessor CONAD (Continental Air Defend) Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

That night, the red phone, used by the Pentagon or CONAD’s commander in chief, rang, and the reason that it was ringing would probably not be pleasant.

Answering the phone that night was U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, director of operations at the center.

Finally, a surprisingly soft voice on the other end answered Shoup.

“Are you really Santa Claus?’ a little girl asked.

At first Shoup thought it was a prank by a co-worker, but the room was full of serious faces. All Shoup could figure is there was a mix-up on the phones and played along.

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “Have you been a good little girl?”

That first little girl explained to Shoup that she would leave some food out for both Santa and his reindeer and recited her Christmas list to him. Shoup then thanked her and noted that he still had a lot of traveling to do.

The phone call ended, it was innocent enough, but the phone kept ringing that night, not because of pressing foreign matters, but all kids wanting to talk to Santa.

And it was all because of a typo.

In a local newspaper Christmas Eve Day, Sears Roebuck ran an ad inviting kids to contact Santa. The ad read as follows:

“Hey Kiddies!Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”

It listed a direct line to Santa, but was off by one digit and instead of connecting to the special Sears line staffed by a Santa impersonator, children were calling a secret air defense emergency number.

After a few more Santa calls, Shoup pulled a few airmen aside and gave them a special assignment. They would answer the phone and give callers — barring the Pentagon, we assume — Santa’s current location as they “tracked” him on their radar.

One man’s kindness became a national phenomenon, and while every moment of kindness during the holiday season may not become a national movement, it’s still part of the greater good, which is part of what the Christmas season is all about.

Acadia Parish Today

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