Legend has it that a certain fellow with a white beard shuffles down your chimney to deliver gifts in time for Christmas day. Indeed, Christmas Eve proves to be Santa’s busiest night of the year, with kids worldwide awaiting his arrival. With this in mind, the activities of mom Sue Dorroh on the day looked mighty suspicious.
Throughout his childhood, John Dorrah of Highland, Illinois, noticed his mother Sue’s strange behavior when Christmas Eve finally came around. She would mysteriously disappear for a few hours on this day every year, much to the bemusement of her family.
Meanwhile, Sue’s son John has done a lot over the years to do her proud. Indeed, he’s forged an impressive career in writing and teaching that has taken him to all kinds of places. He worked for 30 years in a school in Mississippi and after that, his job took him to Georgia and England.
At the moment, John is a consultant for the Gateway Writing Project (GWP), which is supported by the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In the role, he travels to different schools, offering a helping hand to teachers and students in their reading and writing work. Indeed, the position wonderfully combines his love of writing and teaching.
The GWP is the St. Louis branch of the National Writing Project. This educational body forms collaborations between teachers, educators and schools so that students receive the best possible teaching in reading and writing. The GWP also provides consultants like John to aid students from all backgrounds.
As well as teaching, John wrote for a couple of years for STR8-UP Magazine. The publication covered all the art, music and cultural news in Belleville, Illinois. Indeed, he has many strings to his bow, but his creativity didn’t stop there.
John also set up his own project on the side, which encourages others to write more creatively. He kickstarted a series of books called 99 Words, all of which contain 99 stories that are 99 words long. Indeed, the book is a “lesson in word economy,” he told the Sun Herald in 2016.
Furthermore, author and teacher John is well-regarded in his field. Robyn Bouillon, the facilitator of the Carlinville Writers Guild has only good words to say about him. Talking to the Sun Herald, he described him as a man who “manages to find humor in just about everything and he’s got a great imagination.”
Robyn went on to praise John’s ingenious series, 99 Words, which was well received by his peers. She added, “He came up with some hilarious stories [for 99 Words]. Some of them are just absurd, but [others] are really poignant. We love him, and we’re all really proud of him.”
Writing was always something John was destined to do. He recalled that his mother’s stories always inspired him to pursue it. “I would take my mom on trips in the summer, and she would tell me stories,” he told the Sun Herald. “I tried to record them, but the minute I pulled out a recorder, she’d clam up.”
This seemed to be a running theme with Sue; she kept certain things under wraps. Meanwhile, she never let on to anyone about what she got up to on Christmas Eve. No one in the family knew, not even John’s father, who could only speculate about what she did. Indeed, it was her best-kept secret.
The whole family formed their own version of what Sue got up to on that one night of the year. John recalled to the Sun Herald asking his dad, “Dad, where’s mom?” to which he would reply, “I dunno, probably shopping.” But something didn’t quite add up and John knew at the time that something fishy was going on.
John’s father assumed his wife Sue had forgotten to buy some presents, but that theory was immediately rejected. John knew how organized his mom was and how early she got her Christmas shopping done. He added, “She gets her gifts done before Thanksgiving. She’s finished!”
And it wasn’t as though Sue had nipped out for milk. According to John she’d disappear for about three hours. In the end, the family attributed her yearly outing to panic shopping for Christmas gifts. But it was only after her death in 1990 that they learnt the truth.
After mom Sue’s passing, John received a letter that contained information about what she had been doing all those years. It was from a man named Robert, who had been a colleague of Sue’s at the toilet-seat factory she worked at.
Robert’s letter to John said, “I just wanted you to know how much my family and I appreciate what your mother has done for us for all these years,” he wrote. “Every year on Christmas Eve day your mom comes to my house dressed like Mrs. Claus and gives a Christmas we can’t afford to give them.”
Robert’s letter went on to say, “She has given them shoes, shirts, jeans, toys and candy. I know your heart is heavy and that you are missing Miss Sue. We do, too,” he added. “We loved her and just wanted you to know what she has done for us.”
Indeed, it turned out that when Sue left the house every Christmas Eve, she transformed into Mrs. Claus. Her generosity knew no bounds, and she dug into her own pocket to make her friend’s kids happy at Christmas time. After years of not knowing, John’s elation at receiving this news knew no bounds.
John was so grateful to Robert for sharing this with him. He wrote back, saying, “That short note was the best gift that I ever received from anyone, better even than that silly old telescope.” Indeed, it looked like Sue’s actions had brought about more happiness than she had ever anticipated.
The story made such an impact that John decided to immortalize it by turning it into a story for everyone to read. He titled it, Mom’s Secret Mission, and submitted it to Chicken Soup For The Soul. This charming series of books features a collection of heartwarming stories written by a range of authors who submit pieces.
John had already submitted six or seven pieces to feature in the book in previous years, and heard nothing back. But in 2016 his hard work paid off and he was invited to send in a story for their Christmas edition, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas.
Amy Newmark, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the book remarked on how much she enjoyed John’s submission. “I loved his story,” she told the Sun Herald. “I loved the fact that his mother went out to help this other family every Christmas Eve for years and never even told her own family what she was doing.”
Indeed, it’s not easy to be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and competition is fierce. “It’s a big deal to get in,” Amy told the Sun Herald. “It’s an important part of a freelance writer’s resume. We know dozens of writers who have gotten book contracts because they have written for Chicken Soup for the Soul. It gives them credentials.”
Thousands of submissions flood in every year hoping to get a spot in the series, which only makes Amy’s job more difficult. Staff then narrow that down to a few hundred, and then it’s Amy’s responsibility to choose the top 101 that make it into the final cut.
John received a check of $200 in return for his wonderful story, as well as 20 complimentary copies of the book, a welcome reward for the retired teacher. In addition, he is officially part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family. He hopes they will select more of his stories in the future.
For John, the most touching part about his mom Sue’s annual gesture was that she never did it for herself or for attention. After all, she never told anyone. John told Belleville News-Democrat in 2016, “She just did it. It was part of her character, part of her spirit and I think she was a great Santa Claus for me [all-year] round.”
Christmas is a miraculous time of year. And for John’s mother Sue, she’d make sure that miracles were part of every child’s life. And it wasn’t just her that pulled out all the stops for the festive season, one boy from Oklahoma also did all he could to make sure his mom had a Christmas to remember.
Sophia Reed, mother to Diauris and Deneisha, was preparing to have a quiet, low key Christmas after she had spent a large chunk of money moving into a new apartment. Indeed, a decadent Christmas was not on her list of priorities.
However, Diauris and Deneisha had other ideas. They didn’t want their mom to have a mediocre Christmas, so they hatched a plan so they could buy her an amazing Christmas present. And being relatively young and having no money of their own, they had to think outside the box.
With the help of Deneisha, young Diauris headed out into the city to make some money. He started going out collecting cans, but never told his mom where he was going. Deneisha stayed home and covered up for her brother to their mom.
Deneisha wasn’t too happy with the role she played in the whole thing. She was constantly nervous that her mom would find out. She told news station KFOR-TV in 2017, “I was very afraid he was going to get in trouble. I just didn’t want to say anything because it would blow the whole thing.”
However, Sophia noticed that her son Diauris wasn’t around the house. Panicked and scared, she realized that he had been gone ages and reported him missing to the police. Meanwhile, Deneisha was reluctant to tell her mom, who had no idea that the explanation was so innocent.
The police were immediately on the case and eventually they found Diauris. When he was discovered, the young boy then explained to the police officers what he was doing. Amazingly, instead of telling him off, one of them was so warmed by the young lad’s story that he told his colleagues at the station.
Diauris returned home and was interviewed by KFOR-TV, when he admitted, “I just wanted to do something for my mama.” However, that wasn’t the last he heard from his can-collecting adventures. The police hadn’t forgotten it quite yet.
Sophia remembered the time afterwards very vividly. “There [were] so many knocks on my door, everybody just was knocking… and every time I opened my door, it was the police, the police.” But Diauris wasn’t in trouble. It was quite the opposite, in fact.
The officers had been so inspired by Diauris’ efforts that they clubbed together and raised some money so that Sophia and her family could have the Christmas they deserved. They cobbled together an incredible $800, which bought the family plenty of gifts that nestled beautifully under their tree. They also purchased housewarming and family Christmas presents for the lucky trio.
The family used the interview with KFOR-TV as an opportunity to show off their wonderful gifts. Sophia’s little daughter Deneisha grinned widely at the camera, saying, “So I got toys, all the toys – Paw Patrol!” Her mom added, “You got the coat. They gave you everything!”
Diauris was just happy to give his mom the gift she deserved. He added that he was happy to see the police in such a positive light. He told the TV station, “Most of the time when I see the police, it’s, like, bad stuff. Up here I guess it’s changed, good.”
As for Sophia, she’s relieved that her boy is safe. “They caught us at the right time, and we are so grateful,” she added. With a Christmas tree full of presents and her family all safe and sound, the happy mom couldn’t have asked for a better holiday season.
Both Sue and Diauris put others first when it came to Christmas. They both went above and beyond to make it special for others. For Sue, her legacy will live on and hopefully inspire those who read John’s story. If nothing else, it proves how fun it is to play Santa Claus!