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The following article was written in the Boston Herald By Joe Fitzgerald on December 21, 1997. I share it with my students on the last day before Christmas Vacation.
Larry Bird, out of a Celtics uniform since 1992, left a ton of memories at this address, but none more poignant than a Christmas memory he shared with several hundred Boston schoolkids, repeated here this morning because, quite frankly, sports could use a dose of reality.
“What kills me about Christmas,” he said, “is that while it’s a time of excitement for some people, it’s a time that makes other people sad, like kids who just can’t have the things they see their friends getting. A lot of people – and I know people like this – can’t wait for Christmas to be gone.
“You know how they say it was the Grinch who stole Christmas? It wasn’t the Grinch at all. It was the rich people. They’re the ones who’ve stolen it, buying everything they can for their kids and not worrying about other kids who are going to end up feeling left out. They’ve taken Christmas the wrong way.  I mean, it’s supposed to be a time for letting people know how you feel about them, isn’t it?
“That’s why, next to family, the most important thing in my life today are the old friends I have back home, the guys I went to school with, the guys who look at me and don’t see money, or the cars, or even the Celtics. They couldn’t care less about all of that. They live in a different world, the world I came from, where old buddies are still buddies ‘cuz they know what’s important, and it sure ain’t money.
“I look at my little brother today, and when I see him wanting Reeboks, or Champion shirts, it bothers me because kids don’t realize fads and fashions aren’t what determine how good you are, or how important you are.
“Whenever I’m out speaking to a bunch of kids, maybe doing a playground clinic, I always look for that one who stands off by himself, whose clothes don’t look too good.  I’ll go out of my way to make a big deal over him because I used to be that kid.
“We got mostly clothes at our house every Christmas, ‘cuz that’s what we needed.  I can remember my friends getting bicycles, and thinking how I’d buy the best bike in town if only I had the money.  But that just wasn’t possible.  Still, my Mom did a good job.  Christmas was a big thing around our house. There was always a pile of five or six gifts for all of us; as soon as you opened one, you went right to the next one.  It was chaos, and even though we knew it wasn’t going to be a lot, we appreciated how tough it was for our folks to get us what they did.
“So I’ll tell you what we did one year. We knew there’d be no toys that year because the funds just weren’t there. My older brother got the rest of us together and said, ‘Let’s do something special for Mom and Dad before we open our presents. Let’s just tell ’em we love ’em and see how they react, OK? I’ll do the speaking.’
“You’ve got to understand, ‘love’ wasn’t a word we threw around much in our family, so just hearing it said that way was new to me.
“Anyway, we’re all sitting around the tree and my brother stands up.  He says, ‘Mom, dad, we want to say something to you tonight. We want to tell you we appreciate all you do for us, giving us things we know you had to work overtime to get. And, we just want to tell you we love you.
“Well, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Gee, that’s a pretty strong statement,’ when I saw tears coming from my mother’s eyes – and my Dad, he just sat there so proud. You could tell it really hit a chord.
“So look, if you guys want to do something really special this Christmas, tell your parents you love ’em, OK? Tell ’em thanks for all their hard work.
“That’s all I really came here to tell you.  Thanks for listening.  Good luck to every one of you, and Merry Christmas.”
– Larry Bird
If time allows, perhaps you could give the students some time to write a letter to someone important in their life.
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