Every reporter in the world can point to a story he wishes he had written - something moving, or informative, or just plain important in big and little ways.
The story I wish I'd written appeared in the Ogden Standard-Examiner last year. It was a moving article about mentally retarded adults who wait anxiously on Christmas morning, year after year, for Santa Claus to bring them the toys they've asked for.It told how one 70-year-old man, after looking under the tree, went back to bed and cried himself to sleep.
Because they are adults, most people don't realize that they are also children. I know I never gave it a thought until I read the article.
I was reminded of that article last week when I received a copy of the Holiday Wish Book 1988, sponsored by Northwest Pipeline and Hercules, and available at the Community Services Council, 212 W. 1300 South, 486-2136. It's a guide for organizations and individuals who want to do something for others, especially during the holidays, but don't know what needs to be done or who needs help.
Organizations like the Community Action Program, Aging Services, care centers, mental health - almost any non-profit organization that serves some underprivileged clientele - list their needs and their wishes.
Thumbing through the booklet provides literally hundreds of ideas for giving something really special during the holiday season.
By far the most frequent request is for the gift of time. People and groups are asking others to care, whether by visiting an elderly homebound person or by decorating Christmas trees and rooms in local hospitals during the holiday. The Hansen Planetarium is wishing for a licensed electrician to donate some time.
And, realizing that not everyone has time to spare, the Holiday Wish Book 1988 has scads of specific requests: warm clothing for the low-income children in the Head Start Program, lap robes and slippers for elderly women in a convalescent center, musical mobiles for the hospital beds of sick infants, toys and bedding for children who pass through the Family Support Center, homemade candy and pastries for men at First Step House who are trying to conquer their addiction to alcohol.
The most striking thing about the wishes is how easy most of them would be to grant. With just a cursory glance, I found a number of requests for items I have and don't use that someone else would dearly love (after all, one person's trash really is another person's treasure).
I had never heard of the majority of the organizations listed until I became a social service writer. Even then, I never sat down and thought about their special needs and what I could do to fulfill them.
With this book, I don't have to think about needs. They're laid out in front of me in black and white.
Which is why I'm breaking a self-imposed cardinal rule and doing one of the things that has always irritated me: talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving. With Halloween barely out of the way, I admit that I am way ahead of schedule this year.
But, if my wish is going to come true, I have to give people time to get organized.
My wish? That groups will pick up this book, look through it and a adopt a project to make the 1988 holiday season a time rich in giving, sharing, and learning.
It's certainly been made easy. Others have already found out what's needed. The books are assembled and ready to offer suggestions to anyone who wants to help.
And yes, mentally retarded adults are still asking for toys for Christmas.
This book, in the hands of caring individuals, may spur Santa Claus on to finally fulfill those requests.