Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Now Let Us Praise Famous People

Someone said to me yesterday, "Seasons Greetings" and I immediately wondered what I had ever done to them? It seems that as children we enjoyed Christmas immensely (for all the wrong reasons), then had to pay for it the rest of our lives. What? You think I'm about to start on some self-absorbed rant about how stressful life is and particularly the Christmas season? That I should just man-up, relax, and find meaning? Well, Mister, I have two questions for you. Haven't you read any of my previous posts? And when exactly did you retire?

Wasn't this supposed to get better and easier as we get older? Every year I reach a point of maximum frustration. Too much to do, not enough time to do it. Through the years I've tried every play in the playbook against the nickel defense we call "Christmas". It is 4th down, 18 yards to go and on top of everything else, all the outside Christmas decorations are not up yet; I'm the last one in the usual.

Why do we celebrate Christmas at the end of the year? Most jobs I've had called this season the fiscal fourth quarter, setting up budgets for the next year, wondering where the money would come from, wondering if lay-offs would occur, or how meager the salary increases would be. Add year end personal tax planning to the mix and the angst that comes with trying to figure out the dreaded schedule D form. If we want to have wars with less casualties, we just need to threaten the offending country with the implementation of our tax code if we are victorious. Don't send a written act of war, send a schedule D.

And shopping. Not my favorite activity. I was just in a Target today and they moved everything. How could they do this to me! What was in the front of the store last year (make that two years ago - I was in recovery last year - the best Christmas ever!)is now in the back and the goods in the back I couldn't find because now they the sell food! It gets worse. After the shopping comes the strangest practice ever: I married into a family that gift wraps presents - so now we have to wrap everything. Didn't anyone think this through? We wrap so someone can tear the wrapping off and get to the gift which would be easier if it had not been wrapped. The Mullen house never wrapped; if my mother saw wrapping paper in a store, she would probably think the rolls would make for colorful shelf lining. But not Donna's family. On Christmas day, I'll bet if Donna's mother asked for a life saver, someone would run upstairs and gift wrap it with a bow.

And worship: the most meaningful aspect of Christmas. Let's see - I get off work at 4:30pm, make it to church by 5pm, then show up on time (7pm) to the "once a year family Christmas Eve if anyone is late the Holiday is ruined dinner."

God disappointed us. Why was he born in December?

Isn't there anyway to salvage this" Joan Didion said that time is the school life uses to educate us. Can I get my time back? If someone told me that I would wake up dead tomorrow, what thoughts would ride the night? Would I be full of "if only?" If only I took those 2 inches off my waist (OK, 4 inches), if only I saw the horses run at Sienna, if only I had been able to impress one important person, if only I had been a better husband and father, if only my mind was filled with highfalutin thoughts? If only I had more time.

Well maybe...maybe not. I think the answer for finding value in life, at least for me, may lie with some guys I met two weeks ago Saturday in Fuquay-Varina. The three guys, Ken, Tim, and Jack are friends of Larry the bee guy (See last post, Burn Notice). They spend their Saturday's cutting, splitting, stacking, and then delivering firewood through the auspices of the local food bank to families in the area. I forget if they said they had made 120 deliveries or delivered to 120 families, but their effort is consistent and impressive. I don't know them, but they worked with ease and without fanfare. I doubt if they had a notion of "good work", i.e., I'm now going to do "good work." I sensed their charity was part of them, natural, like breathing.

Marc Clark, picture above, has also assimilated God's intention into his life. Marc, in his spare time, helped work on a Habitat for Humanity house in Sanford. He and many others worked on the house over a long period of time. I know Marc and know that he shares the wood guys' sensibilities. His sense of purpose and charity is not second nature to him. It is his first nature.

There are many people like Marc, Ken, Tim, and Jack. They have driven God's van full of charity and love, parked it in their respective driveways, removed the wheels and put the van up on blocks making it a permanent part of the property...and of them.

We (I) can learn a lot from them.

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