The Christmas Story Swap

I’m sitting here in my big, black, comfortable, poppa chair in the living room looking over a printout on some of the stories about  Christmas that you’ve been sending. Thank you for trusting me with them. Because they’re just as much about your life, and who you are, as they are about Christmas, or Hanakkah, or Quanza, or Solstice.

My email address is dick@dicksummer.com  …and if you’d take a moment to send your story, I promise I’ll treat it with respect and affection.

 Big Louie, his own bad self…the Chief Mustard Cutter of the Louie-Louie Generation always says, “Don’t let your yesterday take up too much of your tomorrow. But also remember, that without yesterday there would be no tomorrow.”

 Christmas is a 2000 year old “yesterday”. But for me…when the Jingle Bells rock, I always feel like Santa is telling us…one more time…that we really have got another shot at changing tomorrow into something better than today.

 So here’s the deal…if you’re up for it. I’ll tell you one of my Christmas stories if you’ll tell me one of yours. You first. Here’s a note that came in from Proud Podcast Participant Len Segal, who was with me during one Christmas Eve broadcast on WBZ in Boston. We were on the air live from Boston Common…which is a park right in the middle of the city. Every Christmas, they put lights on every tree. It’s not spectacular, like the big tree at Rock Center in New York…but it’s beautiful, and quiet…a perfect place for Christmas lovers. Len’s note says, “You asked listeners to write to you with their personal thoughts on ‘what Christmas means,’ and you were struck by how much your listeners opened up their hearts in those letters. You decided to read the letters with the mic outside the studio trailer with the people who had come to see the broadcast. Your producer had a fit at the thought of you going into the crowd live, because of the possibility of some drunk yelling something naughty, but you over ruled him and did it anyway. I found a metal sanitation barrel which we needed, because after you read the letters you were going to burn them as a sign of respect, and to warm the crowd a little. Every one was standing around holding hands as you read the letters. I’m Jewish, but it was a wonderful thing to remember…that spirit of goodwill that makes Christmas.”

 Right Len, and thanks. That’s a story I got from you. So now it’s my turn. I remember a little more of the story…although I’m not going to swear everything I remember is accurate after all this time. I was on the air from 8pm to Midnight. I planned on reading the letters about 11:45. I mentioned that on the air, and invited people to drop in. By 9PM we had a pretty good crowd. By 10, the crowd was in the hundreds. By 11 PM there was a traffic problem on Charles Street…just outside the park. Remember, this was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t have permission from anybody including the police department or the radio station to do this. By 11:30, there must have been a thousand people gathered around, and the cops had some extra troops out trying to untangle traffic.

 I figured I was in trouble. But one of the cops came over, saw what was going on, smiled, and just wished me Merry Christmas. Then some of the artists from the Unicorn Coffee House up the block came by. As I recall it was Tom Rush, Jose Feliciano, Jamie Brockett and Mitch Kertzman. At quarter to twelve, I took the mic outside and started reading the letters, and burning them. I consider that a sign of respect for something you can’t keep but is too precious to throw way. We had a pretty good bonfire going…and as if on cue…a slow snowfall started…and just before midnight, we all sang Silent Night together. Have you ever heard a thousand people sing Silent Night, while they’re standing close enough together to keep warm by a Christmas Eve bonfire in the snow ? Maybe you were there. If so, thank you. It was a long time ago. But I’ll never forget it. Never. Your turn again. My address is dick@dicksummer.com

 I put a note here on the Dick Summer Connection blog on the home page of the website ( www.dicksummer.com )the other day, asking for some of your Christmas stories. One of the replies was a quick few words from someone who didn’t leave his name. It just said, “Last Christmas Eve, I got dumped by my wife.” That’s pretty tough any time of the year… but when it happens at Christmas…wow. And it happens a lot around Christmas. Sometimes it’s the result of a company holiday party…when a hot new romance starts…and stops an old one cold. Whitney Houston sang a song about that. And there’s a story in the Night Connections personal audio cd that explains how it happens. I put the story together with the song…because I really think they go together. They’re on the current podcast.

 You know the song. The story is on the Night Connections personal audio cd. If you like it, you can just keep the podcast. Or if you want a fresh copy…without the song…just download it from the Night Connections icon on the home page.

 Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…Jingle…all gone away. There’s a difference between being alone, and being lonely. Being alone can be a relief. Being lonely eats your heart out. So what can we do this Christmas…when we have a shot at making tomorrow a little better than today…for somebody who can use a little of your leftover merry. How about this: Let’s play pick a person…any person you know…but a person who maybe never got much of your attention…a person who never seems to get anybody’s attention. Eleanor Rigby’s friend Father MacKenzie maybe. Just pick a person…and pay attention to him or her. Don’t go overboard. Just soften your voice a little when you talk to her. Smile a little gentler at him. Clean up your favorite joke and make time to tell it to her. Look him in the eye and smile again. Start a conversation…even if it’s just the weather. Listen…really listen to her. Give him a very small present…a Tootsie Roll, a cupcake…and wish him Merry Christmas…and mean it. Most of us have never done anything like that before. But maybe that just means we’ve let too many of our yesterdays take up too much of our tomorrows. Or maybe it just means…Merry Christmas.

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