For the fishermen and farmers of tiny Antiparos Island - a Greek possession in the Mediterranean - this year will bring a much happier Christmas than expected.
For the fishermen and farmers of tiny Antiparos Island - a Greek possession in the Mediterranean - this year will bring a much happier Christmas than expected. Just recently, more than 1200 pounds of rice, coffee, tea and other foods, and an abundance of toys, clothes and confectionery, were sent to the island by American well-wishers from Beirut to Saudi Arabia.
The story behind these generous gifts reads like a fairy tale: some time ago, 8-year-old Charles Hoestler, son of an American Air Force Colonel, passed the island on a luxury liner. With a boy's sense of adventure, he wrote a note, inserted it in a bottle and hurled it overboard.
It read: "I am an American boy. I am eight-years-old, and my name is Charles Hoestler junior. Will whoever finds this note write to me at the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon."
Six months ago, Stephanos, an 11-year-old Greek boy on the island, found the bottle and took it home excitedly to his thirteen brothers and sisters. Later, with the aid of the island's school-teacher, he sent off an answer to little Charles Hoestler as instructed.
It was a great thrill for the two boys when they met on Antiparos Island following arrangements made by Colonel Hoestler.
But the story did not end there. Colonel Hoestler had the idea of bringing Christmas greetings, not only to Stephanos, but to all the 500 families of poor means who live on the island.
He was joined in this idea by colleagues at the Beirut Embassy, and by enthusiastic American businessmen and US Air Force units in the Middle East. Presents for the islanders arrived by the hundred - a real gesture of seasonal goodwill from many kind-hearted people.