Folks, I gotta be honest with you. This whole Christmas thing is not working for me this year. 2014 has not been much of a year of celebration. Our family has lost a lot and most of all my dad lost his wife. He has been like a ship without an anchor ever since.
Every year, it seems to get harder and harder to find the elusive “Christmas Spirit.” I got a temporary reprieve while my kids were little, and seeing their eyes sparkle with the magic that they were starting to wrap their little minds around helped me re-kindle some of those elusive, dormant feelings.
But they are older now, and Santa’s spell was broken last year by a careless comment by a teacher at their school. That did ease a lot of pressure of me, but by the same token it allowed me to embrace my inner Grinch and hate the holiday.
There were times that the majesty of the spiritual element also helped me. The birth of Jesus and the ensuing narrative bolstered my outlook. Now, with the wisdom and cynicism that comes from age and experience, that candle has flickered out.
What’s left? Holiday store displays that show up before Halloween and Christmas music by Thanksgiving gives me plenty of surly ammunition.
I try to douse the fires with the old Christmas movie standbys, but I find myself ready to shiv Ralphie and the rest of his family with a whittled-down fragment of the Leg lamp.
Again I ask, what’s left?
If you’ve ever seen the sort-of-funny-but-forgettable “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, you might not have made it to the end. But the end is the best part, with a Murray soliloquy that redeems the whole flick for me. It goes something like this:
It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we… we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!
And that’s something I can actually buy into.
For a couple of hours, we are the people we always hoped we would be
And I think about what has really brought me the most true joy in recent years. And that is the idea that in some way I was able to make a positive difference in someone else’s lot in life.
Back in 2002, I heard of a (now defunct) group called Friends of the Lakota People. It basically connected donors with struggling senior citizens in America’s own Third World, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Through that group, I met the man that my family now calls Grandpa Joe. Joe is a Sioux gentleman with whom I have been associated with for 12 years. My wife and I Christmas shopped for him one year, buying blue jeans and work boots (and me tucking a $50 bill in his card to make sure he had some dinner for Christmas). I loved taking that package to the post office and prayed that it would help brighten his holiday in that hopeless, impoverished place. Through the years, my gifts to him have been simpler, usually just having a couple hundred bucks worth of propane delivered to his house to keep his water hot and heaters going a little while longer.
The basics. Which mean so much if you don’t have them.
One of the few Christmas songs that I still actually enjoy listening to is “Corn, Water and Wood” by Michael Martin Murphey. For those of you going “Whut? Who?” MMM is a western music performer noted for his cowboy music compilations and that song is on “Cowboy Christmas – Cowboy Songs 2”. A very sweet and nostalgic album.
Anyway, the song talks of a lonely cowboy working the holiday out on the desert with nothing but aggravation. Then he dreams of 3 dark-skinned men telling him to “give thanks for the corn, water and wood.” Food and water and warmth. The basics.
I take that to heart. While my personal situation may suck, at least I have corn, water and wood. So does my family.
And going back to Mr. Murray, he also mentions that even if you make a homeless person a sandwich and give them an old blanket from your closet, it might be enough for them to consider it a miracle.
I may not have enough money to help Grandpa Joe, but I am still going to call him today and see how he is. He NEVER asks me for anything. I have to extract it from him like teeth. But I will try to scratch together something to help his basics.
If you are reading this, you most likely have your own corn, water and wood. If you find yourself in a similar mindset to myself, instead of wallowing you could make a little miracle happen for someone else. For just a couple of hours, be the person that you always hoped you would be. Give thanks for your corn, water and wood. You might just feel a little Christmas magic of your own.
And my friend, that sho’ does feel fine.
Merry Christmas to all of you. Thank you for reading my words. I appreciate those who take the time to comment. I wish you all the best, and promise to try and keep delivering something worth reading.