Yesterday (December 6) was the Feast of St. Nicholas on the Christian church calendar. It was also International Pawnbrokers’ Day. What, you might ask, do those two events have in common? If St. Nick is the prototype for Santa Claus, then he’s all about Christmas: shopping, buying, giving and getting stuff. Pawnbrokers, on the other hand, are there for those unfortunate ones who can’t afford to buy presents, who in fact have to get rid of stuff in order to get by.
But here’s the thing: St. Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers. As historians tell it, Nicholas, bishop of Myra in the 4th century was known for his generosity to the poor; he would leave anonymous gifts for people in need. The story is often told of how he saved a poor man’s daughters from being sold into servitude by throwing three bags of gold into the father’s window at night. The three bags of gold became the international symbol of pawn brokers. Ta da!
Now I’ve known about St. Nicholas for a long time. But it’s been only in the last 10 years that I’ve become much more knowledgeable about pawnbroking. And no, I’ve never watched even one episode of Pawn Stars, the reality TV show that features a modern-day pawn shop in Las Vegas. My knowledge base comes from editing Pawnbroking and the Working Class in Victorian London: 1850-1914 by Roger Creet, a member of First United.
If you haven’t seen the story on NBC’s Bay Area Proud, here’s the link http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/SF-Church-Helps-Elderly-Man-Achieve-Lifes-Goal-233022391.html.
This project took a long time to be born and I give credit to St. Nicholas for helping out. Back in December of 2010, when hopes of convincing a university to grant a PhD to Roger had been dashed), I wrote in this very blog:
I am out of ideas. John (I gave him a pseudonym back then) is now in his 80s, so we don’t have the luxury of time.
So I am appealing to St. Nicholas, patron saint of pawnbrokers (and their social historians) to help us find a way through this dilemma and bring John a Ph.D. Or at least an idea of how to proceed.
St. Nicholas Day is December 6th. I’m going to put my shoes outside my door the night before and hope for a miracle.
In this Advent season of hope, it’s the best I can do.
And Advent hope came through. Yeah, a bunch of people were instrumental in making it happen. But isn’t that how God works – through us? While giving us the extra umph that we often need to keep on going when the way forward looks bleak and even impossible?
So as the second week of Advent approaches, I’m giving thanks for St. Nicholas: Pawn Star!