A Christmas gift for Old Bob

December 14, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Keith Schell

When I was growing up, the sense of community in our little town seemed to be stronger than it is today. For better or for worse, people back then always seemed to know the business of the friends and neighbours around them and were willing to offer help during the times when it was desperately needed. People didn’t seem to be as alone back then as they are at times nowadays. Friend or family, most everybody in our little town back then always seemed to have someone who cared enough to look in on them if they didn’t have anybody else, just to make sure they were okay. 

But there was one person I recall back then who always seemed to be alone whenever we saw him. He was an integral part of our childhood and was known by kids throughout the countryside. He did his job like clockwork, but after his job was done, he was largely forgotten by the residents of the community. Monday to Friday, morning and afternoon, rain or shine, he was always there for us kids when we needed him, and even though he was largely taken for granted by everyone, he was always there to see us safely through. 

And that person was old Bob, our school bus driver. 

Our family always liked old Bob. He was a soft-spoken older fellow with a slight build who always wore a flat cap and horn-rimmed glasses and usually kept to himself, hardly ever saying two words to anybody, although he always did say hello to us when our family saw him going about his business in town. 

Old Bob had no family that we knew of. When we saw him uptown, he was usually alone. When we saw him grocery shopping, he was usually alone. When we saw him at the ballpark, he was usually alone. Everywhere we saw him, he was usually alone. This did not necessarily mean that he had no family, just that we never saw him with anybody. The evidence suggested he was probably a bachelor, but maybe his wife died, or maybe his kids may have moved away for work, or maybe he was simply estranged from what family he may have had. Who knows? We never knew. There were many possibilities. We just never saw him with anyone, ever, and because he was always alone when we saw him, we just assumed he had nobody. 

And Christmas was coming. Not knowing whether or not old Bob had any family, we didn’t like to see anybody we knew and liked be forgotten at Christmas. So, Mom took it upon herself to pick up a little Christmas gift for Bob. When we were next in town on our weekly shopping excursion, Mom went off into the men’s section of the local department store to see if she could find a few small things that a man of Bob’s age might appreciate and find useful. 

When we got home, Mom had picked up a few things for old Bob. Reaching into her shopping bag, she took out a nice pair of men’s gloves, a couple of pairs of men’s socks, and, since most men smoked back in those days, a small pack of Old Port cigarillos, a type of miniature cigar. Mom nicely gift-wrapped them in a little box and told me to give it to old Bob on the last day we rode the bus before school let out for the Christmas holidays.  

The last day before school was let out for Christmas, I got on the bus that morning, and before I went to my seat, I handed the gift to old Bob and said to him, “Here, Bob. Merry Christmas!” 

And when he saw the little Christmas gift I had in my hand, our soft-spoken bus driver thanked me and broke out into such a huge smile that you would have thought I had given him the biggest gift he’d ever received in his life. 

Before school let back in for the New Year, we saw old Bob at the local department store while shopping uptown just after Christmas. When he saw me, he beamed and came over to me and quietly thanked me again for the gift, saying how nice the socks were and how warm the gloves were. We had a nice chat for a few minutes before I eventually bade him goodbye when I heard my Mother calling me.  

In hindsight, going by the smile on old Bob’s face that day on the bus when I gave him that little gift, you would have thought I had given him the world. Perhaps, unwittingly, I might have done just that. Sometimes a little gift can make a big difference to a person who thinks they have been forgotten by the rest of the world, especially around the Christmas holidays, the time of the year when loneliness is usually felt the keenest.  

I will never forget old Bob’s smile that morning on the bus when I handed him that little Christmas gift. And to this day, I take comfort in the thought that old Bob had a little something to open on Christmas day that year just to remind him that he was not completely forgotten by everyone in the entire world. 

It’s not always the size of the gift, it’s the thought that counts. And that thought can be very much appreciated by a recipient who may be alone for Christmas and is convinced they haven’t got a friend in the whole wide world. 

If you are aware of somebody like that in your life, maybe wrap them up a little something for Christmas, if you can, just so they know that somebody is thinking about them over the holidays. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A small kindness can make a big difference in the life of a lonely person, especially at Christmas. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! 

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