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Why I don’t write Christmas thank-you letters February 28, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Catholicism, Family, Personal.

OPENING CAVEAT: I know the title sounds curmedgeonly, and the first few paragraphs opening this post will certainly it sound like a huge “Oh, woe is me” post. Trust me. It isn’t. Bear with me, I hope to make it pay off.


Things have not been very good this Lent. Seems that the fates are conspiring to make sure that we feel the pinch of sacrifice just as much as possible.

My wife and I are Catholic educators. [Members of the Pharyngulist Sycophantic Horde (PSH) are now muttering to themselves, “I knew it.” Ok. Fine. Correct. Now either move along or try to read the rest of this post with an open mind. I know it’s hard. Just breathe deep and say to yourself, “Al Gore is a meritricious hypocrite” and whole new vistas of reality may open themselves up to you] Anyone who knows Catholic education knows that it pays poorly. On average, less than 75% of what public educators make. And we all know how THEY complain about being badly underpaid. So, take us and make it worse.

Sounds like complaining? Just wait. We have seven children, all of them enrolled in Catholic schools, none of them are close to attending for free. That costs money.

The local Catholic grade school -which enjoys a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence- is financially the most well-off school in the area I live in. This area contains 4 Catholic schools, all told. Part of the reason that this school is as well-off as it is is due to the high level of income of its residences, and astonishingly successful fundraiser and an administrator who squeezes every last penny from his parents. My wife just got called into his office yesterday to remind us that we were past due in our account, and our children would not be allowed to register for next year until this account is paid up. Note: our tuition is paid up. Our registration fee, $250 for each kid is not. We had negotiated that away, but I failed to get it in writing, so we are on the hook for that. It seems I have found the only Catholic school in the region that actually lets money get in the way having kids attend.

That’s one problem. Here’s #2: Cars. I bought a Mercury POS last year with 70K miles on it. It has since blown a head gasket, and the water pump is also toast. Worth far less than it is to fix. My trusty Toyota Corolla started doing weird electrical things and croaked on the side of the road –at night– last week. I had been delaying repairing it until some bonus money came in. So, it has pretty much been sitting at home, once I managed to limp it home, right behind the POS Mercury, which it looks as if I will have to write off. I did arrange for the Toyota to be worked on today, as I had a new connection to a reasonable mechanic brought to my attention. I was planning on raiding the laughably small savings account I have to pay for that.

Then, there is the health issue. My wife, who appears to have a chronic strep infection; My younger son, who has a serious heart murmur, and apparently now is showing some possible signs of complications. My wife took both herself and the boy to the doctor today.

When she came home. . . .

. . .the local city utility guy was disconnecting our power for supposed failure to pay.

When we had paid up in January.

When we had received no notice of pending disconnection.

When we were no more than two days late in payment for February.

She called me today, angrier than I have ever heard her, and I don’t blame her for a second. Apparently, she used some serious sailor language in berating the utility guy. . .and was stuck in a house with no power, no means of calling me for suggestions. She then came into work and promptly broke into tears.

I’m sitting about contemplating murder and mayhem at our local city hall in retribution for the power disconnect. All efforts at contacting city hall are rebuffed with the recorded message that they’re too damn busy to answer the phone just now.


My wife and I teach our afternoon classes (tough them out is more like it). She then goes downtown to be a very grudging supplicant to the arrogant power brokers at City Hall.

We manage to get the power back on, at least.

I then bike home, in a driving windstorm that is of course blowing right in my face the whole way.

Five minutes after my wife and put the finishing touches on a combined plan to live off of solar power and decorate the mayor’s house with dogshit, I see my Toyota, that of the faulty electrical system, being driven up our driveway. The mechanic gets out, hands me the keys, and starts to walk off to the follower truck who will take him back to the shop.

“Roy,” I called. “Hold it. Where’s the bill? What do I owe you?”

“No charge,” he replied.

Now, this guy is a local Hispanic fellow who makes less than I do. . .he’s really nice, but he can’t afford charity cases.

“Roy, don’t be ridiculous. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” he replies with a big smile. “Phil Banderas (that is a pseudonym) paid the bill for you.” Banderas is a local attorney, very successful. He is a brother-in-law of the founder of the school I work at. Both Banderas and his wife are long-time supporters and boosters of the school.

I damned near started crying right there. Between the money worries, the dead cars, the loss of power and the health of my family. . .it had been the most trying day following an increasingly trying week. Hard to say if the power issue or my son’s cardiac condition had me the most distressed.

And here comes Banderas –out of absolutely nowhere– and pays off the repair of one of my cars.

Let me tell you why I never write Christmas thank yous. All the nifty little gifties I receive at Christmas from students -and more often, it is from their parents– seem to be part and parcel of the Christmas have to of “provide gifts for the people in your life.”

To me, this is little better than those cards I get on “Teacher Appreciation Day” that say, “We appreciate you!!”

No, you appreciate the need to recognize people on a particular day. (See, I TOLD YOU this would sound curmedgeonly).

And yes. Folks may well be correct in challenging me on these positions. But the challenge I suspect will do very little to change my attitude regarding these gifts. They feel as if they were given under duress. . .therefore, I am not very thankful for them

But I cranked out a “Thank You” letter to Banderas and his wife about 5 minutes after my Toyota was delivered. And no one had to tell me to do it. I couldn’t wait to write it.


Hoody and Mrs. Hoody

132 Hoody Lane

Hoodyville, West. 12345



Phil and Lisa Banderas

123 Other Road

Near Hoodyville, West. 23456

2-28-07, 3:30 PM


Dear Phil and Lisa:

Roy Rosalos (sp?) just left our house having returned our Toyota and leaving us the keys.

He did not leave a bill.

He told us that Phil paid for the repairs to our car.

It is becoming harder to find in this increasingly fast-paced and isolating culture that we live in acts of charity that move the soul and remind us that that we are in fact, brothers and sisters in Christ. I cannot find the words to adequately express the profound gratitude I feel in response to this –entirely unlooked for- act of charity on your part. It came at the end of an unusually trying day for Mrs. Hoody and me, and consequently could not possibly have been better timed.

Not that the timing matters in the end. Acts of charity ought to move the soul regardless of their timing; this is no exception.

Thanks seem utterly insufficient, but all the same:

Thank you, very, very much!!!!!

Thanks for taking the time to show concern, to refer Roy to us, and to remind us of a truly wonderful community that we have the privilege of working in.

God Bless you.

Most sincerely yours in Christ,

Hoody and Mrs. Hoody

Because Christmas gifts are not often about the desire to give. They tend to be about the “have to” give mentality that has infected the West around Christmastime.

That totally unlooked-for, and totally well-timed gift that Banderas gave me. . .now that made me feel appreciated.

And it illustrated for me a basic difference between us Catholics and the godless such as Myers and his ilk. The car repair would not have been paid for by his friends. They would have lobbied for the government to change its laws so that people in my state could have free car care. In the meantime the thing would sit in Myers’s dooryard weeds, rusting in debatable splendor.

I don’t want free car care. I surely don’t want the laws changed so that I can rely on the Nanny State to keep my car running. I just want the damned thing fixed, as soon as I can manage it.

And my fellow Catholic helped facilitate that. Out of his chartiable, Christian, Godly heart. God Bless him for giving us a little Christmas in the midst of a very trying Lent.



1. The Village Idiot - March 1, 2007

I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I think its interesting that your kids’ school requires so much money. My sister’s school got to the point where it was so desperate for money that it re-enrolled kids it had expelled so long as they could pay tuition. Tragedy.

And as for the cars, get a Volvo. It’ll run you into the ground! I’d loan you mine except it is sortof needed since I slip my parent’s suburban into a streetsign this evening.

2. demolition65 - March 1, 2007

Volvo. VERY hard to find for a reasonable price where I live. But I’ll certainly keep that in mind.

Suburban amd street sign? Uh oh. . .:P

3. The Village Idiot - March 2, 2007

Well, the 79 I own has a blue book value of less than $900. It doesn’t have power anything but all those bells and whistles are for wimps anyways. Don’t know if one would make it so long without rusting up in your neck of the woods though.

4. demolition65 - March 2, 2007

Tho I do live in the Northwest, there are portions of it that are rather arid. . .and that’s one of the areas I reside in. Cars last a long time out here.

Cars really get beat to heck either on the coast (as in, right by the ocean) or in the uppermidwest, like in Michigan, where winter is 18 months long and they sow the roads with rock salt.

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