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ILL. The late Erma Bombeck in her book, "If Life is a bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always in the Pits?", recalled the legend of a church where the chimes rang miraculously whenever someone gave a generous gift.

But the chimes hadn’t rung for a long time, even though kings & potentates had come to give gifts of gold & silver & precious gems. The chimes had not rung for a long, long time.

But one Christmas Eve a little peasant boy came down the aisle & knelt before the altar. As he thought about the Christ-child lying in a manger, he took off his tattered coat & laid it on the altar. When he did, the chimes rang loud & joyously.

Erma Bombeck wrote, "I’ve heard the chimes ring, too. I remember a Christmas when one of my sons brought me a piece of tattered construction paper on which he had tried to draw a picture of praying hands, & underneath the picture he had written, ’O Come, Holy Spit.’"

"When I saw that," she said, "I heard the chimes ring & I knew that a very special gift had been given."

"On another Christmas I received a shoebox all clumsily wrapped. When I opened it, I found two baseball cards & a piece of gum. Again I heard the chimes ring."

"And I heard the chimes ring the time when the kids got together & cleaned the garage & gave that as their Christmas present to me."

"Those days are long gone," she remembered, "days when we fashioned lace doilies into snow flakes, & pipe cleaners into Christmas trees. When we took empty spools & used them for candleholders. Those days are long gone."

"I remember little feet coming down the stairs with a hand-made gift all wrapped up in $2.00 worth of wrapping paper to put underneath the Christmas tree. Those little feet now wear panty hose & fashion boots."

"Little hands that used to break the piggy bank to get 59 cents to buy a Christmas gift, now hold credit cards that are good in any store in town."

"We’ll have a good Christmas this year," she said. "We’ll eat too much. We’ll mess up the living room & throw the warranties in the fire by mistake. We’ll put bows on the dog’s tail. We’ll take bites out of cookies & put them back in the plate. We’ll listen to Christmas songs, & have a good Christmas."

"But, Lord, what I wouldn’t give to bend over just one more time & receive some toothpicks held together by library paste & to hear the chimes ring - just one more time."

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