In December 2016 Melissa Whittington, a mother from North Port, Florida, had a rather unusual trip to the grocery store. All she did was take her stepson, Phillip, to Walmart. But the story of their outing has since gone viral.
It was a warm and sunny day just before Christmas 2016 in Florida when Whittington arrived at the store. And while she didn’t notice immediately, there was an elderly man standing on the sidewalk. His name was Bill Greenham.
Greenham is 89 years old and had served his country in World War II. Now quite frail, the veteran needs a cane to keep his balance. Still, on that sunny December day in Florida he had, it seemed, been doing some grocery shopping of his own.
As Whittington and her stepson approached the store, Greenham’s shopping bags suddenly ripped, and his groceries tumbled across the sidewalk. He obviously needed help gathering them up again, but would any kind person stop to help?
In an instant, Whittington rushed over to help the elderly man pick up his shopping. Then, after she and her stepson made sure Greenham was all right, the three shoppers ended up having a short conversation.
It transpired that it was little Phillip’s ninth birthday that day. However, Whittington admitted to Greenham that she hadn’t been able to buy Phillip any presents this year. Instead, they had his broken glasses fixed.
Of course, Greenham wished the boy a happy birthday. But it’s what he said next that blew Whittington away. First of all, he said, “I want to do something for you.” Whittington protested, but Greenham insisted. “What would you like for the little boy?” he said.
Why was this kind man offering to buy something for her stepson? All they’d done was stop to help him pick up his shopping. The truth behind Greenham’s generous offer was about to be revealed.
You see, Greenham hadn’t accidentally dropped his groceries at all. No, he had done it on purpose to see who would come to his aid. But what Whittington didn’t know at this point was that there was a whole team of people involved in this ruse.
Greenham was actually a volunteer who was working for the North Port Police Department. Officers had planted cameras in the Walmart parking lot and were watching the whole thing unfold from inside a police car nearby.
What happened after Greenham offered to get something for little Phillip was so heartwarming to watch that the video of the incident went viral. And Whittington never saw it coming.
Having told Greenham that it had been a tough year for the family, Whittington broke down in tears. Greenham hugged her, and he told her that everything would be okay. The viral video of the story then cuts to people running frantically around inside Walmart with wrapping paper.
Next, people holding presents emerge from the store. They approach Phillip and hand him a giant present, saying, “This is for him.” The officers had given Phillip a birthday present after all: a brand new scooter. It certainly was an emotional moment for Whittington.
But who were these kind people giving out presents? It turns out that they were North Port Police Department’s “Santa’s elves.” And what was this random act of kindness all about? It was, in fact, an initiative called “Operation Santa Surprise.”
The North Port Police Department had decided to do something for the community for Christmas that year. So officers set up the ruse using veteran Greenham in order to reward those kind enough to stop and help the frail man.
“We want to show not just only what North Port police officers are doing but really show that police officers as a whole care,” police spokesman Josh Taylor told WFLA.com. So instead of penalizing people for doing things wrong, they rewarded people for being kind.
In the end, the North Port Police Department gave gifts to 15 different families that day. And its initiative to spread Christmas cheer didn’t stop there either. On another occasion, police gave people gifts instead of tickets during normal traffic stops.
“To have cops come out and not give you a ticket or pull you over, they are always there to help you. They are always there to help you and I think it shows the kids as they grow up these officers are here to help you,” Whittington told Fox News. She couldn’t believe the generosity the officers showed her stepson.
“I’m shocked. I’m amazed that people are so generous at this time of year,” Whittington told WFLA.com. The officers’ kindness was in fact intended to create a “ripple effect” of continued good deeds, according to one police representative.
Birthday boy Phillip seemed to understand the message behind the police department’s initiative perfectly. He said, “Well… it wouldn’t be a Merry Christmas if you weren’t nice to people.”
But it seems that Phillip isn’t the only boy to have experienced some heartwarming Christmas cheer. After all, even royal children have high hopes for the holiday season. And when the paparazzi from across the pond caught a glimpse of Prince George’s festive wishlist, they got a little insight into the mind of a young man who will one day be king.
Four-year-old Prince George is third in line to the throne of Great Britain, so does he even need to write a Christmas list? Well, it turns out that he does. Moreover, his loving father, Prince William, is luckily in a position to be able to deliver the list to Santa Claus personally. But has the little royal been naughty or nice this year? And what does he want for a present?
When George was born in July 2013, it was into a far more modern royal family than any that had come before them. Gone, it seemed, were the stuffy traditions of the past. Yes, it hadn’t been that long since royal children were supposed to be “seen and not heard” – but that has all changed.
In the past, royal children were essentially seen as smaller adults. And indeed, in her earlier years, Queen Elizabeth II would shake the hands of her young children rather than hug the little ones. It was Princess Diana, William’s mother, who seemed to turn such customs on their head. She insisted on raising her children herself – and even took them out to theme parks and beaches like regular parents do.
No matter how good your parents are, however, growing up as a royal isn’t always easy. In today’s social-media age, every photo of George that the paparazzi take is dissected and analyzed – and sometimes laughed at. For example, whenever George throws a tantrum in public, as kids his age often do, photos of it can be online within minutes.
But, of course, there are many good things about being a royal child, too. For instance, George and his younger sister, Princess Charlotte, have gotten to see more of the world in their handful of years than many people will in a lifetime. And in September 2017 the little prince started his education at the prestigious – and very expensive – Thomas’s Battersea School in London.
What else? Well, while Christmas is an exciting event for most children, it’s a very exciting one for royal kids. Every Christmas, the Queen invites the whole family to her imposing Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. And what’s more, the children get to open their presents a day early, on Christmas Eve.
That said, although the royals are surrounded by finery at their luxurious estate, apparently the only gifts that the adults give one another are jokey ones. What do you buy, after all, for people who pretty much have everything already? Well, according to British tabloid The Sun, silly gifts such as toilet seats are popular.
Meanwhile, when it comes to scrubbing up well in public, William and Kate always make sure that their children are dressed impeccably for the Christmas service and for royal Christmas cards. They release one every year, with 2017’s edition seeing the family smiling happily together while wearing matching blue. And just as is the case with their mother, anything that George and Charlotte are photographed wearing tends to sell out in stores very quickly indeed.
George’s Christmases are, then, always picture-perfect affairs. But one thing’s been missing so far: Santa. Until now, that is. In November 2017 William visited Finland for two days to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence. And while checking out a Christmas market in Helsinki’s Esplanade Park, he stumbled across a very familiar face.
It was Father Christmas himself – and William had a letter for him. So, the prince pulled the note out of his suit and handed it over. “I’ve seen you, and I had to give you this letter,” cameras captured him saying. The letter was from George, and it was a homemade Christmas wish-list. What’s more, the photographers craned their necks to get a closer look and found that it was utterly adorable.
At the top, George had carefully circled “nice” when asked if he had been naughty or nice. “He’s been a nice boy, a nice boy,” William told Santa, who nodded. Interestingly, too, the printed part of the letter had space for five gift requests, although George had asked for only one. In the space for present three – he may not have fully grasped numbers yet – George had written “police car.”
“He hasn’t written down many requests, so I think one request is probably okay,” said William. And while toy police cars are, of course, popular gifts for young boys and can be found in most toy shops, this interest of George’s may actually be something that he’s picked up from his dad. You see, back when he was a child himself, William had dreamed of being a police officer.
“A long time ago I wanted to be a policeman, when I was younger,” the prince told a ten-year-old cancer patient in 2009 when visiting a London hospital. “[But] I soon learnt that probably wasn’t a good idea.” Indeed, an old anecdote claims that when the young William announced his intentions to join the police, his little brother, Harry, told him that he couldn’t – as William has to be King.
And George, too, will most likely be King one day. That said, being an heir to the throne doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have other interests or even other jobs. William actually did end up joining the emergency services, after all – just not as a policeman. From 2015 to 2017, he served as an air ambulance pilot – and donated his paycheck to charity.
Such considerations are a long way off for George, however. At the moment, his parents appear to be focused on making sure that he has as normal a childhood as possible. For instance, according to William, in 2017 George took part in a school nativity play. And he didn’t play any of the kings; he played a sheep.
Meanwhile, back in Finland, William received a gift for George – although it wasn’t a police car. Finnish officials from a children’s campaign called Brave Enough To Ride presented the prince with two hobbyhorses. They’re very popular toys in Finland, you see, and two of them would be going back to Britain as presents for George and Charlotte.
In fact, George has been given countless gifts from well-wishers and ambassadors over the years. Some of the most memorable include a large cuddly wombat from the Governor-General of Australia, a lapis lazuli orb from the Pope, a tiny pilot’s jacket from the Canadian government and an actual baby crocodile that currently lives in an aquarium.
William, though, has sometimes shown concern about all the presents that George is given. In 2016, for instance, he was heard telling a young boy at a sporting event that George had received “too many” gifts. “What did he get for his birthday? I’m not telling,” William said – before confessing that he thought George had been “far too spoilt.”
And as an heir to the throne, George is going to have to learn how to be charitable, too. The Royal Family actually support hundreds of charities and devote both time and money to all of them, though. So it seems that young royals are likely to be taught the importance of sharing.
Perhaps, then, George’s parents will tone things down this year. But there is one gift that we know for sure he will be getting: a new brother or sister. At the time of writing, Kate Middleton is pregnant for a third time, and the baby is due in April 2018. So hopefully, George will find his new playmate even more fun than a toy police car.