So, are you in the Christmas spirit? I think it may be a bit difficult for many this year.

Considering what is happening in this country and world — including two wars in which this nation is involved, deadly climate change and divisive political unrest — sometimes entering in the period of the year that is dedicated of spreading love and good cheer seems a little hollow.

To be fair, it always has been a struggle for many to meet the expectations of the season.

It doesn’t help that some people claim there is a “war” on Christmas when there isn’t. After all, when people take offense of saying “Happy Holidays” as a greeting it’s easy to lose some hope and faith in mankind and the purpose of the holiday. By the way, a piece that TIME magazine ran online listed 11 holidays worldwide that take place this month.

Recently though, I saw a wonderful example of the Christmas spirit when Bob “the Bike Guy” Charland delivered 125 bikes as well as other items to the students of Emergence Academy in Springfield.

Emergence is a school within the High School of Commerce and is described on its website as “designed for students with interrupted formal education who are new to the U.S.” I was told there are students from 23 countries attending this program. Many of them are refugees.

Charland explained to me that he was approached about delivering some bikes for the students but decided to go all out. He brought 125 reconditioned bikes and helmets through his Pedal Thru Youth organizations as well as kits of personal items, stuffed animals and boxes and boxes of Lego that was donated to him.

This was his largest number of bikes to date he has donated at a single event.

To get all of these items from his workshop in West Springfield, Charland asked his friends in law enforcement to assist him and members of the Springfield police as well as other local departments, members of the State Police from Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as other volunteers provided the necessary logistics. Members of the Marine Corps also helped out.

The volunteers brought the presents into the auditorium and when they were done the students were brought in.

The students seemed excited and I’m sure that this act of kindness was deeply appreciated.

No one asked if these kids were Christians, but they were given a wonderful Christmas present. Shouldn’t that be the way?

To be frank, I felt the holiday spirit that day, something I don’t feel too often at public events.

If you’re looking to support Charland’s work, please check out his website at https://pedalthruyouth.org for more information.

This past year

This year has presented a number of personal challenges and I hope at least 2024 will have the decency of not repeating any.

One of my biggest issues is getting the hang of retirement. I noted on Facebook earlier this fall, “So it’s been a year and a couple of days since I retired. I’m happy to report the following:

“Despite their appeal, I still don’t have any one-piece jumpsuits, which I saw marketed to retired men when I was younger. I recently cleaned out my closet as part of Swedish Death Cleaning and I’ve come to the conclusion I really don’t need to buy any more clothing any time soon.

“My wife and I go to dinner as late as six o’clock. Do early bird specials still exist?

“I shave on a regular basis even though that schedule is not every day. I’ve resisted the urge to copy David Letterman in his retirement.

“I’ve yet to devote a weekday to doing nothing but laying on the couch reading or watching movies. I feel guilty doing so. I’m hoping to overcome this feeling sometime soon.

“My sixth book is about two-thirds done and hope it will be ready for sale at the end of the year.

“Since retirement my use of profanity has decreased. I’m a little alarmed at this development.

“My tolerance of idiots in government has decreased dramatically, so it’s a good thing I’m not having to deal with them every day.

“Despite my habits of drinking bourbon and smoking cigars, I’ve kept those in check.

“Since I realize I’m in the last phase of my life on this rock, I try to make every day count in some small way.”

Since writing that, I’m happy to say my sixth book is almost done. Books seven, eight, nine and 10 are planned.

I’m thankful and grateful that I have been able to continue my association with Reminder Publishing as well as Focus Springfield. Apparently, there is some value in what I can continue to contribute.

I’m hoping 2024 is a year in which all of us see progress in our lives and careers.

Happy Holidays — whatever they may be — to you all.

G. Michael Dobbs has worked for Reminder Publishing for 23 years of his nearly 50-year-career in the Western Mass. media scene, and previously served as the executive editor. He has spent his time with the publisher covering local politics, interesting people and events. The opinions expressed within the article are that of the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of the paper.