It was nearly Christmas and as usual, people were lined up to get their registrations completed. It wasn’t a place where people came to shop or mingle. No, this was the dreaded tax department–hated by most, and despised by nearly all.
The small office in the Washington County Administration Building on Tabernacle Street was packed, and the next customer was an elderly lady who stepped up to my window. She was sweet but had experienced some difficult prior months. She had bought a car that quickly turned out to be a piece of junk, and she had paid for all the registrations on it.
Now she had bought another car and needed to get to Salt Lake City for the holidays. There was one minor problem...she needed a new registration for the car. I asked her how much she paid for the car, then did all the paperwork and told her the price of the bill – about $100. She started to cry and told me she didn’t have that much money.
I began to cry too.
Let me say, there are many times when customers do not have enough money to complete their transaction, but seldom are there times when people are in desperation, and are truly needy. It’s a fine line between the two.
Then I told the woman’s story to Mary Jones, my boss, and I asked if I could adjust some of the fees. Mary said “yes, go ahead and do that.”
So I refigured everything and the price was much lower, but even with the new lower price of $60, the woman said, “I’m sorry. I still don’t have enough money,” and she began to cry even harder.
You can imagine her embarrassment and humiliation in front of all those people behind her. I too was still crying, and I patted her hand.
Suddenly, a man who was standing in line, walked up to the counter and laid a crisp $100 bill on the counter, then quickly stepped back into line.
The woman looked at the money and then asked “who gave this to me”? No one moved. Again she pleaded “who gave this to me?”
Shyly, a man took a small step forward and said “Merry Christmas.”
“No one has ever been so nice to me,” the woman responded. “I don’t know what to say – thank you.”
I completed the transaction, and of course, I was touched, as was everyone else in the room. I gave her the change and also wished her “Merry Christmas.” She turned to give the change to her saving angel but he simply shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and said again, “Merry Christmas, the money is yours to keep.”
Now, whenever I get discouraged or lose my faith in mankind, I open my cupboard where I have posted Mr. James Haslem’s name and address so I can always remember his Christmas gift of 1997.
And every year since, when I see Mr. Haslem come into the office, I say, “Hello, Mr. Haslem. How’s my hero?
He smiles and says, “Fine.”
I know that he and his family continue to do many kind deeds in the world - not just at the DMV.
So, thank you, Mr. Haslem, for sharing the spirit of Christmas. For on that December day, he brought a new dimension to my Christmas. He taught me that any where, any time, we can all share the Christmas spirit.
Editor’s Note: My wife, Sharee Webb, is writing the article this week for my Southern Utah Memories column. I hope it touches you the way it touched me this Christmas season. Loren Webb