I like the name Nicholas so much that I gave it my son. It didn’t have any family connections but it does have a connection to a man who was born in Greece in the year 270 who I think of as a friend of the family.

The story goes that he was the only son of loving parents who died while he was young, leaving him with their fortune. His beliefs included an adherence to the teaching, “sell what you own and give the money to the poor.”

A poor man with three young daughters lived in the same town as Nicholas. By accounts he was not a bad man, just poor. And he did what many other poor men in his position have done – he sold his oldest daughter into slavery when she came of age so that he could provide dowries for his other daughters. Or, at least, he intended to.

Nicholas heard of the man’s plan and came up with his own plan to stop him. He knew the man would be too proud to accept money so Nicholas waited long into the night, until the family were asleep, and tossed a bag of gold through their window. Then he disappeared into the night.

The man was overjoyed and humbled by the act. He gave the money to his daughter who used it to start a new life with the man she loved. The man vowed never to do such a terrible thing.

But when the second daughter came of age and he had no dowry for her he decided again to sell her into slavery so that his last daughter could be saved. And again Nicholas waited outside his house until all were asleep and tossed another bag of gold through the window.

Although the man was humbled and overjoyed again, although he swore he would never consider doing such a thing again, although he was ashamed and guilty, he did the same thing with the third daughter. But this time he stayed awake and when the bag of gold came through his window he chased his benefactor through the streets. They were both out of breath when the poor man caught up to his golden goose and was amazed to see it was the bishop, Nicholas.

Saints are everywhere. The joint’s lousy with them. And if you think about it you might be a saint yourself, at least to someone.

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