Tuesday's guest speaker during the 66th annual Neosho Laymen's League Pre-Christmas Services — Kim Mailes — told those in attendance of a story that happened 30 years ago during the Christmas season.
"Next Monday evening, the 24th, a young man somewhere — I don't know where — is going to celebrate his 30th birthday," Mailes said. "I haven't been in touch with him in 30 years, but I was very intimately involved in the night of his birth."
Mailes reminded the group of the coldest night in his life back on Christmas Eve in 1982.
"I remember so clearly our family had all gathered. We always had a Christmas celebration, a tradition, around our house. We had tacos, Mexican food on Christmas Eve," he said. "My grandparents were still alive, they were there, my son had not yet been born, and my wife and I were there, my sister and my parents. I remember looking out the window at the thermometer that was tacked to the post just before the phone rang, it was 15 degrees below zero here in Neosho, the coldest I remember."
The call he received was from a dispatcher from the local police station. Mailes knew all of the policemen and all of the emergency personnel because he was a volunteer firefighter and a fill-in dispatcher at the police station.
"The phone rang and it was the dispatcher at the police station who said, 'we received a desperate call for help, somebody is in great need and I didn't know anybody else to call, so I called you,'" he related. "Our church had a program to help the poor. Usually I was happy to do so, but I will just tell you the truth, that night, here I was with my family, Christmas Eve, it is 15 degrees below zero, somebody calls and they need something and I thought, 'why do they have to call tonight, they are probably some deadbeat.' I was just a little bit upset. I went ahead and went to the car, went to see what I could do. I went to an address here in town that all of you would know, it was a large building, an old house that had been turned into some flophouse tenements. I pulled up in front of the house in a grumpy mood."
He walked to the door of the old fallen place, kicked the snow aside and pushed the old door and it creaked open.
"It was as cold inside as it was out. I walked up the stairs that were rickety and holding onto the handrail because it was almost dangerous, the house was in such disrepair," Mailes remembered. "I went to the apartment that had been described to me. I knocked on the door. I never, ever forget what I saw when the door creaked open. A woman who was short but plump, dressed in all sorts of clothes — it seemed she had on everything she could possibly get — opened the door and as she opened the door, it was dark except for a candle in the corner."
Page 2 of 3 - There was not a stick of furniture in the room. In the middle of the room, there was a mattress, he said.
"Lying on the mattress was a young girl. She was covered in a number of blankets and quilts," Mailes said. "As I opened the door, you could see your breath as we began to talk. The woman said, 'I need help.' I said, 'what can I do for you?' She said, 'we just need some water. Our pipes are frozen.' She said, 'you see (gestured to the mattress on the floor), my daughter has just given birth to a baby boy.' I felt very ashamed, my attitude changed in an instant. I didn't know about the baby. Well I went, got some ladies from our church, they helped her and we got her to the hospital. I don't know where that young man is tonight. But every Christmas Eve, I think of him. I wonder where he is."
Mailes then talked about the birth of Jesus Christ.
"Don't you know on Christmas morning that the innkeeper heard that out back in the stable, that that family, the couple, the out-of-towners, that he almost turned away and finally said, 'oh go, you can sleep in the barn,'" he said. "Somebody told him about it, and he said, 'I didn't know about the baby.' See, Jesus Christ came to be God among men. And Jesus Christ came because he wanted to save the world.
"What does Christmas mean to me? It means to me that my God loved me to take upon himself the form of a man so thereby he might live the sinless life and be the sacrifice for us," he added. "He died that we might live."
In closing, he mentioned that he guessed that everybody has the right for a few Christmas wishes.
"You ask children, 'I would like a fire truck or a bicycle,'" Mailes said. "Here are my Christmas wishes this year. I wish for peace on earth. We live in a world of great turmoil, great sadness. And if all of the men would find Christ and live by his precepts, all problems would be solved. Secondly, I wish for harmony. Let's all get along, let's all work together. The third thing that I wish is for optimism. Somehow or another we have become a society of doom and gloomers in the world. We are worried about chaos. But my Savior conquered all. And joy is the result of optimism. We need to once again become a nation, a group of people and church that says 'tomorrow will be better than today because our Savior still reigns.' So today, I wish for peace, harmony and a new sense of optimism that will lead to joy."
Page 3 of 3 - Mailes will continue a Christmas Eve tradition.
"Next Monday night, I will raise a toast to some 30-year-old young man somewhere and just pray somewhere along the line that he found the Christ that means so much to me," he said. "Because 2,000 years ago, another man was born as my Savior is the answer to all of the problems of the world. Merry Christmas."