What happens when a reading assignment turns into song and a kid finds out Santa Claus is real?
Ask Bruce Reynolds, a retired businessman who volunteers with Wells United Methodist Church’s Book Buddies program. For one hour a week, Bruce sits down with a young buddy (we’ll call him David) and helps him improve his reading skills. Only, on this day, David doesn’t want to read. Instead, he asked, “Mr. Bruce, can I sing it?”
Turns out, David has the voice of an angel. Which leads Bruce to ask Mississippi Boy’s Choir Director Lelon Thompson to listen. Thompson, who is also the choir director at Wells, agrees that David can indeed sing and awards him a place in the choir.
If the story ended there, it would go down as warm, fuzzy and feel-good enough. But, it gets better.
Now that David is in the choir, he is responsible for selling ads for the choir’s printed program. Bruce would be his guide on these asks, leading young David from store to store, seeking yet another placement.
Bruce told us David has a pep in his step, a certain bounce in his walk, and that his personality oozes with each handshake and smile. But for one moment, David was frozen. He walked into GLO Design Studio in Fondren and simply clammed up. When Bruce asked the child what was wrong, he stared down the man behind the counter and asked, “Is that Santa?”
GLO’s Anthony Ritter got a kick out of the comparison but assured David he was not the jolly old guy from the North Pole. David’s smile returned and so did his bubbly personality and he easily charmed Anthony, who told us at that point, David had his heart.
Anthony said that with David thinking he was Kris Kringle, he might as well be. With the help of Bruce, it was determined that David’s family of five hadn’t asked anyone for any help this Christmas. But Bruce coaxed a small list out of David’s mom, one gift for each child. Anthony and his elves at GLO did more, buying coats, diapers, remote controlled cars and other toys, passing them along to David’s mom so that “Santa” could bring something to put under their tree.
Anthony and his staff take on a special Christmas project every year because they say they are so lucky and blessed. “I would love to say I do it for them,” he added, “but it makes me feel good to do something great and hope you give joy, even for one day a year.”
Deflecting credit for his role, Anthony said his and his staff’s Christmas giving was nothing, citing Bruce’s work with David every week. “That could alter that child’s whole direction in life,” he explained, “thereby altering everyone’s life he meets. It’s this little ripple, one hour a week.”
Ripples do have a way of creating waves. Bruce’s reluctant involvement in Book Buddies gave him the chance to see how much he loves working with kids, showing them a life outside of Bailey Avenue. He said he’s in it for the long haul, as long as David will have him.
And Anthony? He sees the long term fruits of a better future for David. “I just want him to do well. And he can.”
Bruce said he’s thankful to have been a part of such a special Christmas. “I’ve been on the other end, trying to do these mass things and I’m sure some good has come. But here, I can see it. It’s an investment.”
A tip of the hat to Fondrenite Lisa Hathorn who told us about this great story opportunity!