I have fond memories of Christmas Eve. When I was little, it was the day you waited for Santa. As I got older, I appreciated our annual family Christmas party that my parents threw at their house (no one ever explained why it was always at their house, but I suspect it had something to do with my parent’s giant tree). Later, when my dad’s business was finally off the ground, it meant one of our favorite traditions: our annual Giving of the Big Tip.

It started one Christmas Eve, maybe my first Christmas while I was in college (WVWC-Go Bobcats!), when we were on our way back from Logan (half my people are from Logan. I imagine this just explained a lot about me to a lot of you). We finished eating at a restaurant and my dad looked in his wallet, and he said, “That waitress was really personable. We’ve had a good year. Let’s help her have a good Christmas,” and he took $100 out of his wallet, plus the amount for the bill, and we got up and left.

We didn’t look to see if she picked it up, just went out to the car and went home to get ready for Ranson Christmas. I remember asking Dad why he didn’t stay for a thank you, but he just smiled and said, “Doing nice things is like loaning money to a friend: you should do both without any expectation you’ll be thanked or paid back.” A classic Bo-ism, and maybe my favorite one.

For years he did this, only getting caught once (but I suspect he liked the big hug and kiss he got from that waitress!). When he passed, my mom took that mantle up. And I’m tearing up writing this, because I realize that for me, that act, that’s Christmas. I love the family party, I love opening presents, and I love looking at my Christmas tree. But that feeling you get when you’re kind for no other reason than you can be: that’s what the season is all about for me.

I think that must be why I love Jackson County so much: our local culture has a running theme of kindness for kindness’ sake. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Be generous with zero expectations of repayment. Give with a pure heart, and even if it doesn’t work out how you intended, know in your soul that you did the right thing at the right time. It’s like this hidden code in all our DNA, this streak of quiet charity.

I know it’s there, because I see it all around me. I see the quiet things people do to make our county better for everyone. I see the people who do amazing things deflect thank yous, because they don’t do it for thanks and praise: they do it because they know it’s the right thing to do for the community they live in, and if they’re able, they’re going to do it. Doing kind things, giving of yourself, and doing it only for the joy it brings you personally...well that’s a gift that always comes back to you.

I can’t give you quietly kind people the thanks you deserve, but I can tell you that you have made not only Christmas, but this entire year, better for so many people. What you bring to our community, what you give without expectation or strings attached, has mattered.

So have the merriest of Christmases, you generous people of Jackson County, and may we all follow your example in the New Year: be a little kinder, be a little more generous, and do it all for the joy of giving, all year round.