I'M NOT ASHAMED to admit it — I believe in Santa Claus — the rotund one — a jolly old elf. I held that belief firmly for many years until one Christmas season an older cousin told me something to the contrary and planted a seed of doubt.
The crushing blow came one Christmas Eve when Santa's identity was revealed because his fly was open! My Pop-Pop's boxer shorts were in plain sight! Now, you would have to have seen my grandfather to appreciate the fact that he could play Santa with no additional padding. That he was a jack of all trades — plumbing being one of them — and shaped as he was, had long ago revealed what his boxers looked like from his forays behind stoves, boilers, under washers and dryers or bending over for tools. He was busted! But so were we and it took me a long while to get over my newfound truth. To this day, I regret having had the rug pulled out from under my truth.
As a result, we made sure we eased our kids into reality before anyone else could spoil the magic. We instilled in our children the notion that Old Saint Nick, a.k.a. Santa, lives in us all, and it's how we treat others at Christmas (and at other times during the year) that lets us keep the spirit alive. That also helped explain why, when they asked, so many Santas can be found at every mall.
The spirit of Santa also lives through selfless acts done by plumbing contractors whose only goal is to lend a hand to those truly in need. Call it divine providence or sheer coincidence, if you will, but some force beyond coincidence seems to bring folks together at this time of year.
Such was the case when Jesse and Nancy Lamar of Jayco Plumbing, Heating & Cooling attended a December's church service and listened as the details of one young mother's personal needs were detailed: Working two jobs to make ends meet; a 6-week-old infant; car broken down with expensive repairs needed; and, as you might have guessed, no heat. Jesse looked at Nancy and without speaking a word, he knew she approved of his intent to provide free services. Your soul mate sometimes can speak volumes with just the twinkle of an eye — like St. Nick.
So Jesse ventured forth to Nancy Kline's home, where she and two children were living without heat, only to find the boiler couldn't be serviced — it was busted. With a heavy heart, Jesse delivered the bad news and Nancy Kline told him she had a tough choice to make: Fix the car or the heat. Her budget dictated only one could be done. The car had to come first so she could get to her jobs. She offered to pay Jesse for the diagnostic call, but he knew his Nancy would approve of him not charging.
That week, Jesse attended his York County (Pa.) Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association chapter meeting and spoke to his fellow members about Nancy Kline's plight. Holiday spirits were burning bright that night and the response was heartwarming. All that remained was a supplier willing to work with the group to obtain the boiler and needed parts, not for free, mind you, but at a discounted price because members of this PHCC chapter had agreed unanimously to donate their entire savings (if necessary) to achieve their goal.
They found that helping hand through wholesaler York Corrugating and its branch manager, Bob Kuhn. A bit of a jolly "old" elf himself, Bob was swept up in the spirit of the season and managed to obtain pricing for a Burnham boiler and accessories that was very favorable. The stage was now set for a warm and gracious Christmas for the Kline family.
And so it was that on a weekend in December, just before Christmas, a group of plumbing contractors met to work as one in a Christmas concert of fellowship, brotherhood and selfless giving to aid someone in need.
There was, as Tom Sanders of R. E. Sanders put it, one rather large problem.
"There were all these plumbing, heating and air conditioning business owners — normally fierce competitors — all on the same jobsite: Bill Dick of Axel; Randy Kopp of L.J. Peters; Bob Behler of R.H. Behler; Keith Klindenst of John Bortner; Max Copenhaver of R. D. Heller; Dave Leroy of Leroy Mechanical; and a guy from Roto-Rooter, plus me!" Sanders said. "This was a tiny boiler room and, as you know, there's about a gazillion ways we each like to pipe boilers. So, when it came time to make a decision regarding how to begin, no one wanted to be The Boss. From that moment on, each time a decision had to be made, a chorus of 'I'm not the boss — you are' would spring up and hearty laughter would follow — we had a blast!"
Bill Dick echoed Tom's sentiments when asked about the day's work and had this to say about what it meant to participate in assisting the Kline family: "It really helped drive home the true meaning of Christmas for everyone involved. Each of us took away something different, yet each of us took away the spirit of unity and faith in mankind; the true meaning of the season, I think."
Yes, I believe in Santa ...
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected]
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