May 27, 2024

Column: That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “For Christmas”


Bruce Williams

“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “For Christmas” Chapter 105
By Bruce Williams

It’s that time of year again, so I thought I’d break my short hiatus and offer up a few Christmas thoughts.  We’re only about a week out, and there’s three things I’d like to propose that you try to accomplish this week on top of all your other shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning and fake smiling.  Now don’t get your hackles up—I know you’re busy and already have too much on your plate, but these three small things can be accomplished in passing if you just insert them into your mental Rolodex and bide your time waiting for the perfect opportunity.  So here we go…

Compliment a kid.  At first I was going to say “compliment a teenager” because I have two of them (and I was one of them once) and I know how awkward and lost those years can feel, but any kid will do.  More specifically, I’m looking for targeted, well-thought-out pats on the back, so not “You’re so tall!” for the boys or “You’re so pretty!” for the girls.  I want “You’re so smart!” for the girls or “You’re so kind!” for the boys—something off the beaten path that lets them know you see them and aren’t just a platitude regurgitator.  It may change their trajectory—I had an Honors English teacher (Mrs. Mahlum) that I often felt was just putting up with my interjected one-liners and mulleted bon mots in class, but who, when asking me to help her carry a box out to her car on the last day of school, used the opportunity to brush off my teen bravado while simultaneously concentrating on my prose.  In between her dressing down of my classroom antics she looked me in the eyes and offered me a compliment on my writing skills—noting hesitantly, “There’s more to you than meets the eye.”  It stuck with me to this day.

Number two is to employ a “That’s enough.”  I’ve worked in retail and I’ve worked at a restaurant.  For whatever reason, people are awful to service workers this time of year.  Just this week I’ve witnessed unfathomable rudeness from people that should definitely know better.  What I’d like on this second task is for you to gently nudge yourself in when you see someone stepping out of line and give them my favorite two-word reality checker—“That’s enough.”  A short aside—the first time I used this line I was at a Starbucks and a woman charged to the front, screaming about her drink order being incorrect.  As they were remaking her fancy coffee for her, she continued to berate the cashier, the barista and even the manager until she was red in the face.  Finally, I tired of her nonsense and gave her a quiet, “That’s enough.”  She pivoted on me in anger, eyes a’blazin’, but my expression was blank and I think she finally realized what a boor she was being.  Pick your spots here—I don’t want to be on the hook for any black eyes or hand bag assaults.

This last one’s the biggest and the toughest, and I’ll have to give it some thought as to whom I will bestow it upon, but I also think that it’s the greatest.  Forgive somebody.  Even if that asshole doesn’t deserve it.  Even if you’re still mad at them.  Heck, even if they’ll never even know, or they live on the East Coast now or they’re dead.  Find somebody and forgive them.  It’ll remove that knot in your chest you didn’t even realize you were carrying around.  It’s good for the world’s net heart worth (that’s a thing, right?), even if only, say, thirty of you do it (that’d be a lot).  You don’t even have to tell anybody—and I’m sure there’s someone you’re thinking of right now and you’re getting mad and muttering, “No f*#%ing way” but do it anyway.  If you can’t do them, ratchet it down to the next one in line and absolve them.  It’ll make you feel huge—and who doesn’t want to feel huge at Christmastime?

That’s all for this holiday issue.  I was going to add Pet a Dog, but we all know to do that, and say “thank you” or better yet—write some thank you notes.  For me, I’ll try to bite my tongue when I see a double-dipper over the spinach and artichoke medley, or if someone asks if I’ve tried the aspic I’ll lie and say that it was delicious.  These things I can do.  And if you’re on the receiving end of the forgiveness, be grateful—what a great gift—the greatest.  We’ve all fallen short at one time or another and the world needs second chances.

Merry Christmas!