Mayne: Celebrating the secret to my holiday success

My dad died a year ago – today. Now, don’t worry. This isn’t about to become some long-winded narrative where I share touching stories about someone you’ve never even met.

Well, maybe just one.

You may be get asked about your most treasured Christmas present. What’s that one thing you remember, to this day, in vivid detail? For me, it wasn’t a physical gift I opened on Christmas morning with family, but a gift I received from my father through his actions.

I would have been maybe 7 or 8 years old when my dad asked me if I could help him with something. It was probably a week before Christmas.

“Grab your coat and c’mon. Let’s go for a car ride,” he said.

“Where are we going?” I asked, as the car pulled out of the driveway.

“I’ll tell you in a minute,” he said. We drove for about 10 minutes before he turned down a non-descript, snowy side street.

“Who lives around here?” I continued with the questions, all the time watching my dad hunched forward and peering through the windshield along the darkened street. He was looking for something, that’s for sure.

He pulled over, reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope.

“You see that place, a couple houses up there? You see it? Take this envelope and go put it in their mailbox.”

“You want me to knock on the door and give it to them?”

“No, you have to do it without them seeing you. You need to be sneaky. Make sure no one in the house sees you.”

With those orders, and a huge smile for permission to be ‘sneaky,’ I crept quietly up the snow-covered steps and, on my tip-toes, put the envelope in the mailbox. I ran back to the car.

On the way home, I asked my dad what was in the envelope and who lived in that house. He said it was something he had to give to a friend. He was my dad; I didn’t question his response. I was 7 years old, after all.

For the next few years, we would complete the same mission. Car ride. Envelope. Sneaking. The getaway. ‘Something he had to give to a friend.’

Until one year, we stopped. I never questioned why.

Years later, I must have been in high school or university, I asked my brothers and sisters what they knew about it. Had they done it before? They didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

I asked my mom; she spilled the beans.

The house belonged to a woman from our church. She was a foster parent for a number of special-needs children. My parents were giving her a few extra dollars to help around Christmas time.

Why didn’t my dad just tell me that? It was a really nice thing my parents were doing, so why didn’t want anyone to know? It took me some time to realize, but by not telling me, by keeping it a secret, he made me appreciate the gesture that much more. I never did tell my dad I knew what he was up to. That was my secret.

These days, social media broadcasts a play-by-play of everyone’s lives in order to get approval and praise. Why do you need to share everything?

Sometimes doing something simply because it’s the right thing to do, is better than doing something so you can tell people how wonderful you are. Keeping a secret can be a good thing. Give it a try.