Monday, December 24, 2007

I've just met Santa Claus.

I'm a little old to believe in Santa Claus, but then again, there are some things I believe in that are even more far-fetched than Saint Nick. We'll get back to that later.

It was 2:30 in the morning and I had been working for a friend, delivering some computers and helping those who received them get them set up. It had been a long night and I stopped by my "boss's house to drop off the company van and get into my own truck to go home. I was surprised to see the lights on and knowing that everyone should be in bed, I walked quietly to the front door and slowly turned the knob. It's ok, I almost live there anyway and I have a key. I work pretty close to my "boss".

Nothing seemed out of place when I walked in. It was quiet and I could hear the heater humming in the background. The house smelled of holiday candles and wintergreen from the Christmas tree. I walked quietly into the kitchen and into the dining room and that's when I saw him. That's when I saw Santa Claus.

He was hard at work at his "workbench". Not a workbench at all really. It is a dining room table where he does most of his work. As you may have guessed by now, I did not really see Santa Claus but many will think he Santa after tomorrow. The "Santa" I am talking about is more than my "boss". He is my friend.

His name is Ken Starks and many only know him as "helios". Ken has a popular blog and a cause he has given much for. As a Linux advocate, Ken has not only spread the word across the nation and the world about Linux, he has taken on the task of giving poor kids computers. He calls it by the corny name of Komputers4Kids but it doesn't matter how corny the name sounds, it is what he does that makes the difference. Ken has made a difference in the lives of over a hundred kids in the past year.

He didn't hear me when I came in. I watched him work and he worked quickly with a dexterity rare in a man with his artheritis. I noted his hands were bleeding from cramming parts into the cases that are mismatched for the hardware he scrounges up to build these miracle machines. I call them miracle machines because Ken can take the junk everyone else throws away and with the help of Linux, he turns them into fast, sturdy computers for the less fortunate kids in Austin Texas.

Ken faced some bad challenges this year. Even though he asked a couple of times for the help he needed to get almost 20 machines built for his Christmas orders, only a few people responded. I think the last time I asked him how much he had gotten as of that time, he told me one hundred and sixty six dollars. One one hundred dollar donation from a guy who always steps forward when he is needed, a fifty dollar donation from someone else, and a smattering of one and five dollar donations to make the one hundred and sixty six dollar total.

But Ken didn't have to tell anyone no. He had made a promise and when Ken promises to do something, it has to be a really bad thing for him not to keep it. Ken kept his promise to these kids by selling a valuable family heirloom. It was a grandfather clock that had been in his family for four generations. His youngest daughter would have been the fifth.

Ken didn't complain, he just did what he had to do to get the job done. His wife if furious with him but then again, I can't blame her. I don't think she has ever really understood Ken's love for this "Linux thing" and the people who he gives it to.

So no, I don't really believe in Santa Claus. Then and again, there is something I am wondering if I need to stop believing in as well. Is there a Linux Community? Ken says maybe there isn't but there are people that care. He says he just failed to get his request out to the right number of people.

I'm wondering if he got his request out to the right people in the first place. If it makes a difference, I want to thank the people that helped this wonderful man do what he feels he needs to do. Even if you do not know me, you are my friend.

Ryan

3 comments:

Zachary said...

It's nice to see that there are people out there making a difference. I took all my old surplus hardware this year and built machines running Linux and gave them away to people in my area that can't afford computers. Many people don't realize that maybe a Pentium 2 machine or Pentium 3 machine may be junk to you, but there are people that can use them. It's much better than throwing them away.

airdrik said...

I still uphold that while there is no real person named Santa Claus who flies around the world giving toys to all the kids and lives in the north pole, Anyone who puts the needs and wants of others before his own and does good on or around Christmas is playing the part of 'Santa Claus', and on a more religious note, is showing himself to be a true follower of Christ whose birth all Christians celebrate at this time of year.

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