News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 20, 2013

Holiday Writings: Retiring courthouse employee has been writing Christmas poems for 26 years

TERRE HAUTE — What began more than two decades ago with the inspiration of the Christmas season has turned into a 26-year tradition for a Vigo County man.

Each year, Patrick Michael Gainor sets pen to paper to write an original Christmas poem, encouraging people to celebrate their blessings as part of the holiday season and to see beyond the holiday commercialism to the Christian foundation of celebration.

“I never thought about writing poems until I started working here,” Gainor said recently, while making his rounds through the Vigo County Courthouse, where he has worked as a custodian since 1988.

In his office desk, he keeps a binder that contains every years’ poems – all focusing on the Christian faith and the season that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, he said, he’s given out 145 Christmas cards that include the poem “God’s Greatest Gift – Jesus.”

The poem begins: It’s the small things we do during the Christmas season that means the most,

Especially when we are inspired by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

He said the title comes after the poem is written. And, even though he gets a little anxious about writing a poem as the holiday approaches, he knows he can’t rush the process.

“It boggles me, because again, this year I tried to force one out, and I couldn’t write one. Not until God gave it to me,” he said.

“It’s like an artist doing portraits,” he said of his writing. “He or she visualizes what that portrait is going to look like before they make the first stroke.”

Our most precious gifts shouldn’t be the ones

that are wrapped in silver and gold.

It should be about the most beautiful story that was ever told.

Gainor is well-known among the courthouse staff as a person of faith who freely speaks with others about his faith. His poems are an extension of that faith.

“I’m always impressed at the time that he puts into the poem and the cards,” said Fran Wright, a clerk in Vigo Superior Court 1. “The thought he puts into it is amazing.”

As a youth, Gainor attended the former St. Ann’s School. The building now houses the St. Ann’s Clinic at 14th and Locust streets. In one of his classes there, he had an assignment to memorize a poem. But, he found the task difficult. So instead, he wrote a poem and recited it in class. Later, the teacher told him that he had a talent for poetry.

His talent resurfaced in the first few years that he started sharing a Christmas poem at the courthouse, he said. People asked him where he found the poems that he included in his Christmas cards. Many were amazed that he was the author, he recalled.

“God had to put something in my head that first Christmas,” he said of his 1988 poem.

His distribution list has grown through the years, and now he sends the poems to friends and relatives around country.

“It’s a good tradition,” he said, noting that people now anticipate the poems and ask about the arrival of his annual verses.

Our world is so hungry for love for we have so many scars to heal,

Sometimes it’s so sad we ask ourselves is it real?

We can turn this around but it can’t be accomplished in a day,

Love, time and patience and we all need to take time out to pray.

Sometimes, he said, the little things that people do – such as sharing poetry – lights a spark that will help a person in the future. He said he is a big believer in “paying it forward” when it comes to sharing the blessings of life.

“We are all gonna be judged by what we do and what we don’t do,” he said. “If you have the opportunity, sometimes a person may have a problem, and it is for you to listen to them. I try to listen to folks. We all have talents. God gave us all a talent, but for some, the talent is to be a good listener.”

When he’s not working at the courthouse, Gainor can often be seen at public events such as parades and festivals, attending with his wife, Vonna, and several of their grandchildren. Growing up in a family of 10, he said, he’s used to a crowd. He took nine grandchildren to the recent Veterans Day parade downtown. He walks to work every day, and he often uses that time to pray for all of the people in his life – past and present – and to thank God for his life.

Gainor said he has planned to retire come April 1, and he wasn’t sure what he’s going to do with his time at that point, so he started feeling a little depressed. But he feels that God told him one evening to write a list of positives and negatives. When he did, he said, he was ashamed of himself because he had listed a bunch of positives and only a couple of negatives.

His poems often contain encouraging words for veterans. He is a U.S. Army veteran himself. This year’s poem also mentions those who endured the recent natural disasters in the Philippines.

Gainor said he was pleased and humbled when a woman told him that what he wrote made her realize that she needed to “make the first step” in a life situation.

“I try to touch at least one heart every year,” he said, “and I know I do that.”

This year’s poem concludes: May the world over have a Happy New Year,

Working together let’s turn our problems into happy tears.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.


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