San Jose Mercury News (CA)

December 25, 2002
Section: Editorial


IT'S easy to get out of sorts during this special holiday time, to be resentful of those elements that detract from the spirit of the day.

Like the holiday crowds, and the traffic jams. Or that guy on the freeway, the one with the big American flag under the words ''FEAR THIS'' plastered on his back window, tailgating down the freeway, forcing others off the road. Or the uncertainty about troubles abroad and the economy at home present other distractions. Then, of course, comes unease over those gifts that may or may not be just what the recipient wanted.

But don't cancel the holiday just yet. Not without reflecting on what life would be without other moments, those special times that inspire us and cause us to reset our compasses.

Included in the news of recent days were a couple of nuggets that reinforce the message of hope and remind us all that Christmas is the season for giving rather than getting.

Consider the story of 7-year-old Sammy Skala of West San Jose, as related by Mercury News columnist Leigh Weimers.

Last year, Sammy saved his money for a family snowman and this year was excited to see neighbors had put mechanical reindeer on their front lawn, picking up on Sammy's holiday spirit. When the reindeer were stolen, Sammy insisted on spending money he'd saved to purchase new ones. The grateful neighbors eventually persuaded Sammy to let them pay the tab.

A small story, and yet a large reminder that a 7-year-old's yearning for hope and happiness is something all of us should share.

Remember, as well, the story of 8-year-old Kaitlyn Langstaff.

Mercury News Reporter Linda Goldston chronicled Kaitlyn's battle with toxic epidermal necrolysis, and the incredible strength shown by the young Saratoga girl despite spending 110 days in four hospitals battling an illness that has left her unable to see, speak, or eat what the rest of us eat.

Readers responded with an outpouring of help for Kaitlyn's family. A music promoter is converting a poem Kaitlyn wrote into a song, and recording it to raise money for Kaitlyn.

In the poem, Kaitlyn shows fierce determination to remain true to who she is, writing, ''I am the same inside,/just like a normal kid./ And I want to let everybody know,/ this is what I did.''

Special words from a special child.

Thank you, Sammy. Thank you, Kaitlyn, and to all who contributed to Kaitlyn's cause. During this time of stress, you've provided a needed reminder of what this season's about.

Happy holidays to all.