Five-year-old Sophie Birgbauer wants her new friend Al to have Batman Band-Aids for Christmas.
Sophie met Al Armstrong, 60, on a recent field trip with her 4- and 5-year-old classmates from the preschool at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Rock Hill.
During their annual walk through Christmasville earlier this month in downtown Rock Hill, Sophie and her classmates saw Lego displays, gingerbread houses and hundreds of Christmas lights.
They also met a new friend in Armstrong, and learned the value of giving to others.
Armstrong, who is homeless and who spends time in downtown Rock Hill, gave $1 gold coins to about 14 children, said Melinda Bradley, an assistant 4-year-old kindergarten teacher at St. John’s.
“It’s a great lesson for the kids,” Bradley said. “He has nothing, and he gave out of his pockets. It’s the true meaning of Christmas.”
It’s the true meaning of Christmas.
Melinda Bradley, St. John’s United Methodist Church
Giving is a sign of Armstrong’s heart of gold, said Iris Hubbard, director of Renew Our Community, a crisis assistance center in Rock Hill. Armstrong often spends time at the downtown center, Hubbard said.
“Al is generous,” Hubbard said. “He is always pleasant and giving.”
Armstrong said his late mother used to give coins to children, a tradition that he enjoys continuing.
“Children are the gift of life,” he said.
Bradley said Armstrong told the class that his mother “was smiling in heaven, and was glad he was giving coins to children on Christmas.”
The parents, teachers and students on the Christmasville field trip got to experience the holiday spirit tied to the gesture, Bradley said.
“It was pretty magical,” she said.
To give back, the students made Armstrong a thank-you book, including notes sharing their wishes for him at Christmas, Bradley said.
“Everybody was very touched by this,” Bradley said. The students “get that he has nothing . . . and he gave out of his pocket.”
Armstrong had a cut when the kids saw him, so most of them want him to have Band-Aids. Some wished for him to have blankets.
As a class, the students and their families raised more than $100 to purchase gift cards for Armstrong, Bradley said.
“I asked for a small donation, and they came in with the motherload,” Bradley said. The class hopes to “help make his Christmas merry.”
Armstrong said he believes in blessings.
“When you are on the right side of goodness, things always come your way,” he said.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082