In early December, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in Ottawa, Kansas, started to get calls from citizens concerned about a woman’s safety.
“She’s walking along Highway 59,” they reported. Sometimes it was around 7 a.m. Sometimes the calls came in late afternoon.
Deputies investigated and found Christine Wheeler of Princeton, Kansas, walking to work. Six miles to the Love’s Travel Stop off Exit 183 in Ottawa, Kansas. Then, six miles back.
Moved with compassion, the deputies gave Ms. Wheeler a lift – more than once. They learned her story as they drove. It’s been a tough year. Car troubles. Some days, her sister or friends helped. But Ms. Wheeler was determined to feed and care for her two small boys.
On Dec. 9, a few of the deputies decided to do something that wasn’t in the Franklin County sheriff’s manual: They quietly approached local Ottawa businesses and friends for donations.
Yesterday morning, a deputy asked Ms. Wheeler to step outside. “Oh gosh, I’m in trouble,” she thought. Then, a couple of the deputies showed her the gifts in the truck stop parking lot: a secondhand van complete with two child seats, auto insurance for a year, a grocery gift card, and $200, according to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
“I can take them to the park!” she shouted with delight, referring to her twin boys. “I love it!”
In a small town in Kansas, the Christmas spirit went viral. It started with a few alert and caring neighbors. It gathered momentum, becoming a snowball of compassion and generosity. And, on a cold, gray December day, it enveloped a young family with joy.