An old Air Force buddy of mine, Mr. Frank Corbett, posted a story this morning of his search for a Nativity scene for his front yard. He had already put up the traditional lights but being a Christian man, he wanted something that signified the real meaning of Christmas. Sadly, (but not so amazingly) he couldn't find one. I'll let him tell the story. Thank you, Frank, for sharing this with us....
MERRY CHRISTMAS…? - While I do wish you all a Merry Christmas, I have to share with you my Christmas tale, which left me looking upon this season with a weathered eye…
It was nice to be putting up the lights outside wearing only a shirt this year! The temperature was like spring, the light cords were still flexible, and I wasn’t in a foot of mud! I stood back and looked at my handywork, and suddenly felt the need to upgrade the display. For years, I have wanted to put a manger scene on the lawn, as a way of remembering what the word “Christmas” is all about. No, not some giant, industrial sized, mega watt, motorized mammoth...just a simple, smaller, more humble display that would be nice to look at, and easy to store for 11 months of the year...yeah, this year I’m gonna do it!
Well, yesterday when my chore list was done, I headed for the stores. First, I headed for the local clearance chain, and after several minutes roaming the aisles and not finding what I was looking for, I found a clerk who told me that they didn’t have any, and suggested I try the ‘big box’ stores...so I moved on.
I arrived at the most widely known of those ‘big box’ stores, and was just amazed at the colors and lights! It was a magnificent display. Greens and red, gold and silver, flickering lights and shimmering displays, while music played in the backround. What an amazing display! There wasn’t a corner of the store that wasn’t done up for the season! Time to start my quest...aisle by aisle!
Aisle 1 was loaded with those giant lawn and roof inflatable's...giant parachute things with lights and even motors to move things around. Amazing! Animated balloons! They had Santa going in and out of the chimney, Rudolph and snowmen, Santa in his sleigh, Santa waving, even Santa in an outhouse...I guess there’s Christmas everywhere...even an 8 foot tall sock monkey with a Santa Claus hat...but no manger here...moving on.
Aisle 2 was all the wire and light statues you could imagine. They had reindeer, snowmen, gingerbread men, Santa, Santa waving, Santa in his sleigh, Santa in a chimney, carriages and lamp posts, lollypops and candy canes, all in wire, covered in lights. No manger here...moving on…
Aisle 3. Every colorful plastic blow molded statue every thought of...finally, it must be here! Let’s see...Santa, Santa sitting, Santa standing, Santa in his sleigh, African American Santa, Santa sleeping, Santa reading his list, Santa in a chimney...don’t see that every day...lamp posts, carolers, ginger bread men, penguins, polar bears, candy canes, igloos, elves and even Santa Teddy...no manger but plenty of aisles to go!
Aisle 4...gee...everything I just saw in the previous 3 aisles, but all of these are Disney characters. Mickey singing at a lamp post, Duck McScrooge, Tigger in a Santa hat...oh, here’s something new...Santa Mickey in a chimney...how original…
Aisle after aisle, display after display, I felt like I was in a desert where the sand was replaced with crap...and I was. There was “Holiday this” and “Holiday that”...then my eyes came to rest upon a box, one with a little picture of a Christmas tree on it...but I was confused...what made this a “Holiday Tree” and not a “Christmas Tree”? Was there something different about it? Then it occurred to me...with the exception of only a few boxes, nothing...not a single other thing...had the word “Christmas” anywhere on it! I was lost…
Then our from an aisle came a weary looking blond girl, wearing the “smock” that gave her away as an employee. Her nametag said “Happy Holidays...Pam...How can I help you?” I introduced myself, then asked her if they had the elusive manger. She apologized, and said she didn’t think so...at least, she hadn’t seen them. So I asked her: “Well, Pam...maybe it’s with the Christmas decorations...can you tell me where you keep the Christmas decorations?” She looked at me with confusion and amazement.
“Sir, I’m not THAT tired! We are standing in the middle of the Christmas decorations.” She smiled and chuckled. I pointed to the displays and asked her “Where is the word “Christmas” on anything here?” She was completely befuddled. “I never noticed that before!” “Not even your name tag, Pam?” She suddenly looked blank, as if someone had deflated her.
At this point, a nice young man stepped from the nearby aisle. He told Pam to take a much needed break, and then relieve someone from the receiving area where unloading trucks was backlogged...sheesh...even during the day. He introduced himself as Ken, while taking a name badge from his pocket and pinning it to his shirt. He explained that when they are going to lunch, they take their identifying items off, so they can make it past the “Holiday shoppers” without molestation. I understand that perfectly, having once been a “box store” resident manager. Ken had heard my conversation with Pam, and said he felt compelled to share something with me, as long as I understood that he was not “representing the opinions or policy of the store”...I chuckled…”Law student?” I asked. “No. I actually thought I was going to be a teacher...still just might, but I worked here through college, and when I graduated, they offered me a promotion. Jobs are tough, and they’re not hiring teachers like you might think, so here I am.”
I went on to find out that he was married, Christian, had two daughters and a son on the way. He was a local kid, raised in a rough neighborhood by a single mom who worked in a hospital laundry. Church every Sunday, and family meals meant lots of relatives. His mom made the holidays special when he and his siblings were young, and the church was their place of learning, of celebration, of help when times were tough, and joy for holidays, weddings and picnics. He wasn’t all “bible in your face”, but at the same time, I found myself a bid envious of his stable spirituality, and his sincerity.
“A few years back, the corporate guys came in. They said that they had been addressed by an organized group who had come forward to stand against the “forcing of one groups singular vision of the holidays on those without the same belief” and threatened litigation, demonstrations and a boycott. They were apparently well funded and had the ears and cameras of the media on their side.” I remembered reading something about that, and some blips on CNN, but didn’t think anymore about it, as I thought the “atheist militia” as I called it, had crawled back under their rocks. Ken went on. “They said that they had ‘remarketed’ and ‘adjusted’ the plan-o-grams for the company to better recognize and be more sensitive to what they called ‘diversity’ in the holiday.” Sounded fair to me. I mean, after all, we have Christian, Jewish and Muslim events at this time, too, so it sounded fair, but what about what I found today? “Being a man of color, I thought they meant adding more things like for Hanukkah, maybe Ramadan, Kwanza and things like that. We did get “Black Santa”, did you see that?” I tried to not laugh, but I couldn’t help it. I apologized...but he went on to say:”You don’t need to apologize. I think it’s hilarious, too, but that’s not my point. The bean counters figured out that if they wanted to recognize everyone, it would cost a fortune, and we had no place to put all that inventory, and they didn’t want to get stuck with it. At the same time, they didn’t want to (make angry) the folks that were complaining, so they took the “Christ” out of “Christmas”, and now virtually everything is “Holiday” or listed as “Seasonal” merchandise. There isn’t anything here except for a few cards, some CD’s, and a couple of the trees that say Christmas. They actually do have a few menorah over in the greeting card section near the candles, but beyond that, that’s it!”
I was just stunned. “It’s not just us, Frank...it’s every major chain in the country.”
I thanked him for his time, wished him and his family a “Merry Christmas”, and headed toward the exits. As I walked past the brightly colored displays, they all seemed grey. The twinkling lights, somehow seemed to have gone dull. I realized that even the music in the backround had been gutted, for even the “Christian” songs had the lyrics removed...just music. The music then faded from my ears, and I was alone in this crowded store. Endless shoppers pushing past, saying not a word unless it was to the cell phone jammed in their ears, asking about size of shirts or “does he have that already”...because you wouldn’t want two of the same gifts...that would just ruin the “holiday”.
It seemed like forever, pushing past these faceless sheep, focusing on the bright red exit sign. Just as I got to the exit, the speakers went silent. The “click” over the speaker let everyone know there was about to be an announcement...a call for a department...a special in the “holiday” section...a spill in aisle 4...some insignificant banter to lull me as I headed into the rain…then the announcement crackled...and I heard a familiar voice: “I want to personally thank you for shopping at our store today, and to wish all of you a Happy Hanukkah, a peaceful Ramadan, and a Merry Christmas. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, I’ll be glad to help you find it.”
Thanks, Ken...you did. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well, and it’s where it always should be...in the hearts and minds of the people. Merry Christmas to you all...
...I still need a manger!