December 22, 2017

Readers share their favorite Christmas memories

Father’s act of kindness leads to annual ‘Merry Christmas’ for would-be thief

Julie Sullivan Schnieders

My dad was Bob Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Hardware in Indianapolis. I was the oldest of the seven kids, and was the first kid to work in the hardware store as a cashier. The year was 1969, and I was 12.

In walked a policeman with a woman in handcuffs. He drug her to the paint counter, where my dad was mixing paint for another customer. The policeman did not know not to interrupt my dad while mixing paint, so he began to use words like “allegedly” and “she was a shoplifter,” referring to this young woman.

I kept staring at her handcuffs. The woman had stolen a Christmas tree from the hardware store the night before, and this policeman had arrested her and was bringing her to my dad to see how he wanted to proceed.

My dad, with his glasses on the end of his nose, (he looked like Santa minus the beard) instructed the policeman to undo the handcuffs and told him to go sit in his office, which meant the policeman was now sitting in my area.

The woman was sobbing and my dad, who now had finished mixing the paint, said to her “Dry your eyes,” and handed her his hankie.

She said she needed a tree for her kids. My dad took her to the isle with all of the tree decorations, and proceeded to get her all the fixings she needed to decorate a tree. He then had one of the workers get a tree for her, and told them to take it to her house. I heard him ask her how many kids she had. He then went in the back of the store and handed her a bag of gifts. (My mom always hid our presents at the hardware store.)

He then reached into his wallet and handed her money. His parting words to her were: “You come here every year, and we will get you a tree. Merry Christmas.”

The policeman at this point was kind of giving my dad the stink eye. My dad then went into the office and spoke to the policeman. I am not sure what my dad said to him, but the policeman looked a little frustrated and said, “Merry Christmas” to me as he left.

I grew up witnessing the generosity of a wonderful man, and I will never forget the kindness my dad showed to this woman. My dad never told anyone this story. He never wanted to be thanked. … He just did what was right.

P.S. This woman came to the store every year for many years, and received a tree.
 

(Julie Sullivan Schnieders is a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.)

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