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'Better Christmas' benefactor offers another gift

September 05, 2007|By BOB MAGINNIS

Each December, for the past two years, a local businessman who wishes to remain anonymous has delivered $2,000 of his own money to me at The Herald-Mail.

He's asked only one thing in return - that I give the money away, in $100 increments, to people who could use the money to give someone else a better Christmas.

I find those people by asking them to write letters describing who they would help and how they would use the cash to do so.

I don't investigate the letter-writers, so I guess that I could be conned. But after 20 years of reading readers' letters, I like to believe that I have developed some ability to determine who's sincere and who's not.

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And so for two years, I've given away the cash, sometimes supplemented by funds from others who also wish to remain anonymous.

Each recipient has also gotten a copy of "Daily Readings from 'Your Best Life Now'" by Joel Osteen, pastor of a large church in Houston, Texas.

On the evening of Oct. 27, Osteen will appear at the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore.

I know that because my anonymous businessman recently told me and asked me if my wife and I would like to attend, at his expense.

There was only one proviso - I must give away 50 tickets to the event and act as master of ceremonies on the Atlantic Coast Trailways bus, which he has also paid for.

This is not a Herald-Mail event, nor does The Herald-Mail endorse Osteen or his message, because the newspaper cannot favor one doctrine or preacher over another.

It's solely my project and I have agreed to take it on because this businessman has trusted me to give away $4,000 of his money.

If you would like to see Osteen in Baltimore, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Bus Trip, c/o Bob Maginnis, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

If you take a ticket (or a pair of them) and find out later you cannot attend, please let me know as soon as possible. I'll ask those who don't go and don't notify me to contribute $20 a ticket to this year's "Better Christmas" event.

Yes, the businessman has agreed to do that again in 2007. He tells me he's been blessed and feels, like the title of Osteen's book, that he's living his best life now.

He also says he and his wife cherish the thank-you notes we've forwarded to him. Sometimes, after a day that hasn't gone so well, he told me that he just has to look at those letters again and then he feels better.

Who is Joel Osteen?

In a 2003 interview with Evan Smith of Texas Monthly magazine, Osteen was described as the son of John Osteen, who founded the Lakewood Church in 1959, in a converted feed store.

By the 1970s, the church had grown to 7,800 members. In 1983, the younger Osteen suggested that the church televise its services. Eventually, Smith wrote, the services were seen by 100 million households in more than 100 countries.

After his father's death, Osteen became the Lakewood Church's pastor. In 2004, his first book, titled, "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential" was published and became a New York Times best-seller.

In 2005, Osteen published "Daily Readings," which has been given to "Better Christmas" letter-writers for the past two years.

In 2006, Barbara Walters named Osteen one of the year's "Ten Most Fascinating People." What that means, I'm not sure, since the list also included rapper Jay-Z and Steve and Terri Irwin, the deceased crocodile hunter and his widow.

But just as I do with everyone I listen to, I'm inclined to hear Osteen first, then make my own judgment.

There are some details that need to be worked out, such as where people attending the concert will park, but once I hear from the charter company, I'll send that information along.

Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you'd like one, please send your letters to the address mentioned previously, along with a phone number I can call if necessary. Thank you.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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