Latest News

Good Neighbors: Getting back in the spirit of Christmas

Have you lost the Christmas spirit only a month after that holiday? Here are a few stories to put you back in the mood:

Lee and Renee Cross of Modesto went into the Denny's restaurant on Orangeburg on Christmas and "witnessed the true spirit of the day," Lee said. "We saw waitresses being a blessing to a handicapped person. They spent time talking with Gino, and even cut up his breakfast. In particular, Cherie and Jennifer were showing him what our Savior meant when he talked of 'caring for the least of these.'

"Thank you, staff, for showing us the Spirit of Christmas."

Debbie Sessa, the French teacher at Johansen High School, said members of the French Club there raised money over the past year and used it to buy toys for the children in Madera Children's Hospital last month. They traveled to the hospital and spent two hours entertaining the children.

"I'm not sure who were the bigger beneficiaries on this trip — the hospitalized children or my students," Debbie said.

Charlyn Piper of Modesto wrote to commend "three angels" who helped her last month. Charlyn was in Stockton to pick up a painting of the Last Supper as a Christmas gift for her husband. She thought the painting would fit into her car, but it didn't.

"I came in out of the rain and tried to think of someone else who could help me," she said. "I had barely sat down when two of my three angels appeared before me, ready to lend a helping hand.

"The man said his teenage son had overheard my ZIP code, which was one number different from his; we both lived in Modesto. We exchanged phone numbers and I entrusted my purchase to total strangers."

A few hours later, Herb, Norma and Jamasen Rodriguez delivered the painting to Charlyn's home.

"Now this gift to my husband is even more special," she said.

Mary Brown of Modesto wrote to tell the story of her cat, Spooky.

"We were going through great personal tragedy because my brother had been murdered in Oakland and then I was hit with several health problems," Mary said. "When Spooky disappeared, it was like losing another member of our family."

For two months, there was no word on the cat, which had a collar with Mary's phone number. A couple of days before Christmas, Mary got a call from a man named Larry who said he was homeless and living in Ceres. Spooky had been living with him.

Mary and her husband met Larry, but "it was pouring rain and Spooky didn't show. We left our pet carrier with Larry and went home empty-handed. Close to midnight, Larry called again. He had Spooky in the carrier."

Larry had walked at least a mile in the rain carrying Spooky to get to the nearest phone, Mary said. They gave him a large, dry comforter and some money for his help.

"Spooky was 12 miles from her home," Mary said. "She must have been around people, and not one of them bothered to check her collar and call except for a kind, homeless man named Larry."

Do you have a story about someone who has helped others or is a terrific role model? Send a brief item to Sue Nowicki at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352 or e-mail