Merry Christmas, Dear Readers

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Tomorrow, we celebrate a radical notion.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the notion that we must love our neighbor as ourselves — and that the birth of a single child can make a difference to all the world, if we but have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Fortunately, here in Rim Country, we have so many people that will help us to learn those great and radical notions.

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So in today's print edition, we celebrated some of those people on the front page.

You’ll find a story about what happened when some Rim Country folks read that an astonishing 20 percent of the children in the Payson Unified School District qualified as “homeless.” This means they didn’t have a home with their parents, but found a spot on the couch of a relative or lived with friends or lived in the forest with their family. These children must struggle mightily just to get a night’s sleep and a full meal. They struggle to keep up in school and adapt to the chaos of their lives. They live in terrible danger of falling through the cracks, slipping away from help and hope like a drowning girl in the darkness.

But people who could not stand the thought of children in such need, formed Payson Assisting Displaced Students. They recruited families that could take in these lost children. They bought school books and backpacks. They contacted social service agencies.

And after a year and more of persistent, loving effort — they found safe, secure homes for 140 children — and 44 families. Most of these kids and their families just hit a rough patch, as the economy faltered. They just needed a little help, the end of that rope floating on the dark water.

They needed no more than a place in the manger, in the warm straw, in the hearts of their neighbors — just for a bit, in the cold heart of winter.

You’ll find also the story of the effort of Angel Alatriz, who set out to find toys for 200 children — mostly kids in foster care. His hard-working mother taught him about Christmas — about giving, about loving thy neighbor. So he set out without any proper sense of his own limits. Then someone stole boxes of toys, just before his deadline for gathering them up and distributing them to all those other children. So he redoubled his effort, appealed once more to the great heart of this community — and wound up with 348 toys to wrap for Christmas.

We wrote about Brooklyn Klein, who pitched in when Expedition Church decided to participate in Shoes for Orphan Souls, a global effort to raise money to provide shoes for vulnerable children throughout the world. The church raised enough money to provide 200 pairs of shoes — including the 51 pairs Brooklyn provided.

So, you see, we have our great teachers here in Rim Country — who can instruct us in the true meaning of Christmas.

And yes, we will gather in the morning, with our breaths steaming in the cold, to give presents to those we love — to cup our hands to their joy. We will gather with family. We will listen again to that old and hopeful story, about the child born in a manger who changed the world.

As for us, the greatest gift will not come wrapped.

The greatest gift will remain the laughter of children, the love of those we cherish and protect — and the privilege of living here in Rim Country among our beloved readers, in a community that includes the people who launched an organization dedicated to homeless children, a 7-year-old who wants to give shoes to the world and a little boy who doesn’t know enough to give up in the face of greed and indifference.

We are truly blessed, to live in such a place — among such as you.

Merry Christmas, dear ones.

And God bless us, every one.

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