By Curtis K. Shelburne
I just wanted a good story, nothing especially profound, as I was reading one of J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books a few years ago. But from the mouth of one of her characters came this bit of wisdom: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
If you wonder about the quality of Pious Pete’s piety, go to a restaurant with him and see if he turns into a demanding, unwilling-to-be-pleased jerk, snaps at the staff, and tip-stiffs the server.
A Santa who doesn’t at least make some effort to know the names of his elves’ spouses and kids (and the real Santa better know ’em all!) is just a loud fat glory-hound on a sugar high. He needs his red tail section kicked down to Central Shipping low in the Pole for a week to see how the little guys live while he’s flying around in the Mark V fly-by-wire sleigh.
The real tests for most of us aren’t off at the North Pole or even down at the office. They come close to home. The guy who sits in his recliner barking orders at his wife, or gets hoarse shouting at the kids who know to avoid him in his “moods,” who has never washed a dirty dish or changed a dirty diaper in his life . . . The gal who fancies herself more “spiritual” than most folks around her but who most folks around her are happy to avoid . . .
Those folks needn’t wonder if they’d pass the faith-test that would come with serious persecution; faith-tests come every day, and the most important are the ones we don’t recognize as tests at all, the ones that catch us by surprise. Who do you hold the door for at the Post Office? Who do you just walk by and never “see?”
I’ve failed most of those tests often, I’m sure. But as I’ve been singing a bunch during this season, one of many surprises has been a reminder I needed. At several events, as I’ve been setting up or tearing down, guess who were the only others there? The serving staff also setting up, cleaning up, or already re-configuring the room for the next of a jillion hot-on-their-heels Christmas gatherings. Those workers are as human and flawed as the rest of us, and I’m sure they have their share of Grinches, but I have found myself amazed at the Christmas spirit of such folks who work longer, harder, and for less return than most of the folks they serve.
I love all the “Merry Christmases” I’ve received this year. The words are a simple gift, and only cost a very little breath to give. But perhaps the most precious “Merry Christmases” I’ve been given this year are the heartfelt wishes kindly and generously given by these hard-working folks as I’m headed out their door.
Hmm. That calls to mind another Servant. Another Gift.