Life is a street where U-turns are legal. Christmas is about turning around.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


The 5 people you meet on Christmas

December 23, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

This is the story of the five people you meet on Christmas.

The first is your brother-in-law, the one who drinks too much.

You met him at the Christmas Eve service. He was trying to hold a lit candle without quivering. Instead of wishing him a Merry Christmas, you mumbled and turned away.

What you didn't know, what you couldn't know, was that he wanted to talk with you, with anyone who would listen, about the lump his doctor found, about the prospect of cancer, about getting the courage to go to AA on his own. About telling his wife, your sister.

The second is your neighbor Sal. He's the one who asked for help fixing the muffler on his car last Christmas Eve -- a bad time, right? Maybe next week, you said. But next week never came, and Sal never got the muffler fixed. It sill leaked carbon monoxide. Still leaked when Sal's daughter started driving herself to school. She had just turned 16.

The third is your mother. You were 11 years old, rushing out to ride the new bike Santa left, ignoring your mother's presence at the door, pretending you didn't hear when she called, "Give mom a Christmas hug!" You kept on going.

What you didn't know, what you couldn't know, was that all these years later your mother still hurts. The pain of that little rejection still stings. It always will. She is still waiting.

The fourth is Dory, the woman who works at the desk next to yours, the one with the lisp. The one you can't understand half the time. The one you met on the street that Christmas morning three years ago when you were upset over the bills. The one you said "Merriff Chrithmith" to, for no reason at all.

You didn't know, you couldn't know, how the humiliation of that day made her doubt, for the first time in her life, that anyone actually cared.

Because, maybe, at that instant, at that terrifyingly lonely time in her life, nobody did.

Finally, the fifth is the image you see in your mirror this Christmas Day. What you do not know, what you could not know, is the image others see, the one that's captured when you are not looking. What you could not know is the welter of your unkindness and the anguish of your carelessness. What you could never know is the heartbreak of your selfishness.

But what you should know is this: Life is a street where U-turns are legal. Christmas is about turning around, one hurt at a time. Sometimes you doubt that you can change yourself, but you should never give up on the chance to change direction.

That is how you start. There's no better time.