A Christmas Tale to End the Season

For our family Christmas party this year (the one involving my Mom and siblings—one family Christmas party of many), we conducted a neighborhood food drive to benefit the Utah Food Bank. We were aiming for a repeat of the year the homeless person crashed our party. Not a repeat of the event, of course, but of the mood and the lesson. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Two days before the party we distributed fliers in the neighborhood, telling people what we were doing and inviting them to leave donations in bags on their porches. That project was our first hint that the thing wasn’t going to go as planned.

Boy 12 was pissy the whole time as we walked from door to door spreading Christmas good will with our fliers. Because of our Irish ancestry, we decided to explain our kids a little bit about Christmas being a 2-day feast in some countries.

“Why do we have to do this?” he asked.

“Because it’s part of our party activity. We’re doing a food drive for-”

“I know, Dad.”

“Then what do you mean ‘Why’ if you already know?”

“It just ticks me off. It’s not that fun.”

What would you do with that invitation? Do you launch lecture #247: “This is the Time of Year When We Give and It’s Not Always About You and Sometimes We Do Things Because They’re Right, Even When We Don’t Want To?”

Do you silence him with a sharp, snarky retort? “Oh, then let’s cancel. ‘Sorry, hungry people. Bubba’s not having any fun, so we’re going to call it off. I hope next year you’ll have the good sense to go hungry at Disneyland so he doesn’t have to be bored during his charitable activities.’”

So many rich possibilities to choose from. So many, in fact, that I was utterly stumped—silenced by an overwhelming array of choices, kind of like when you go to Walgreens for cold medicine and there are 60 different varieties so you leave without anything. Mothered Five and I said nothing to Boy 12 humbugging in the back seat as we embarked on our quest to turn the hearts of the children away from themselves.

Maybe Boy 12 was prescient. When we walked the same beat two days later, only Mothered Five’s parents had left donated food on their porch (they live in the same neighborhood as my Mom). Maybe it was the timing: we were the third food drive in the space of two weeks. Maybe it’s the economy.

Whatever the reason, our attempt to capture and spread a little Christmas Love fell flat. But maybe the lesson was not lost on the gaggle of my five and their many cousins. Yeah, that’s it. And maybe reindeer really know how to fly.