That noise you heard this morning was your own sigh of relief. The tensions, impossibly high expectations, and frantic shopping that, sadly, define Christmas for so many, are over. Even if you don’t engage in this seasonal frenzy, you can’t help but be exhausted by it.

I can only hope you will indulge me today by reading one more Christmas story.

Santa may have come on Christmas Eve, but the good folks at My Brother’s Keeper come every day of the year, delivering furniture and food to people in need throughout the communities around Brockton, Massachusetts. I am so very proud to tell you that our son Josh works for Keeper, a program that raises money only from private donations and delivers whatever is needed to all who request help — no questions asked.

Twenty-three years ago Keeper’s founders, Jim and Terry Orcutt, answered God’s call and made their first Christmas deliveries to 14 families. This Christmas, Keeper delivered gifts and hope to more than 10,000 people, primarily children. It’s an inspiring and amazing program and place.

The program runs on volunteers with big hearts and generous spirits. On Dec. 15 and 16, when Linda and I joined them, volunteers from 46 communities and seven states jammed Keeper’s headquarters in Easton. Many were families. The Keeper’s mission is “to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to all we serve.”

Volunteering each Christmas at Keeper has become something Linda and I eagerly anticipate. The experience is humbling and helps keep our own expectations in check.

Standing at a station in Keeper’s large warehouse, staring at one family’s wish list that we would gather and wrap, I am always struck by the modest requests. Many come from single moms with several children living in extreme poverty. And their minimal expectations, from life and for Christmas, would bring tears to your eyes.

Delivering gifts to people in Brockton with Josh, including a ham for Christmas dinner, I get goose bumps in many homes, seeing the beaming faces of the kids, listening to voices thanking God (and praising My Brother’s Keeper) for blessing them with prayers and packages that I knew contained only a small fraction of the toys and other things that were under Christmas trees in many Maine homes yesterday morning.

This year we got promoted, assigned to accept deliveries and stock the shelves with the astonishing array of items that arrive hourly from all over the area, donated by church members, businesses, and even individuals.

One donation really touched my heart. On Saturday, Jeff, a volunteer I judged to be about 40 years old, helped me put batteries in a bunch of toys. On Sunday, he sought me out to accept his donation of a set of Tonka trucks.

The packaging looked old, the trucks were a little dusty, but every one of them was in beautiful condition. Reluctantly, Jeff told me his story. This was his favorite childhood toy, the only thing he’d been able to keep intact throughout a chaotic life.

A recovering alcoholic, Jeff treasured this toy, until that Sunday when he said he “felt he could let it go.” Tears in my eyes, I passed the set of trucks on to Keeper’s director, Eric, along with Jeff’s story, so both could be delivered to some very special child.

I thought about Jeff’s powerful and inspiring story and gift all the way home from Brockton.

And then I was swamped with requests for comments, advice, reaction, and leadership from the media, readers of this column, sportsmen all over the state, and friends, in response to the atrocity and tragedy at Newtown. I suppose it’s natural to direct questions to this former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, but I was still surprised by the both the volume and the tenor of the questions sent my way. Many people seemed desperate for direction.

Struggling for inspiration and answers, I thought about My Brother’s Keeper.

Could the answer be found there, in the program’s generosity, humanity, humbleness, caring compassion and commitment to help all who are in need, no questions asked, respecting and valuing the worth of each and every individual?

I think you know the answer, an answer that must be applied to all of the problems — some of which seem overwhelming right now — we face as a state, country, nation, and world, entering a new year.

It’s time to let some things go. We are strong enough to do it.

George Smit can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]

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