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Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas my way

As a young lad, 4th grade, I became disillusioned with Christmas.  It was my first year at a "city" school instead of the country school where I had been attending.   We had just returned from the Christmas break and each of us were bragging about what we had gotten.  I had gotten a Remington 22 squirrel rifle which had a 7 shot clip!

Mrs. Clower, seeing our enthusiasm, decided to have each kid stand in front of the class and tell about one thing they got for Christmas.  I think she thought that it would teach us a little about talking to a group.  And if we were talking about something we really liked it would be easier than "making up a speech". 
 
It didn't take much coaching to get started.  Many kids were holding up their hands to be selected.  Those of us that were a little more bashful held off until our names were called.  Jack Hudson was the only one that shook his head "no" when she called on him.  Mrs. Clower politely called another name and we went on down the list.
 
Now Jack was a real bashful kid.  He was a "country kid" and, like many of us, helped with chores before catching the bus to school and often his clothes showed it.  He was a slow reader and wasn't very good at math so he did everything he could to stay out of the limelight.
 
However Mrs. Clower came to the end of the list and everyone had been in front of the class, that is, except for Jack.  She called on him again and again he shook his head no.  Everyone in class then turned in their seats to look at Jack.  This udder defiance of Mrs. Clower was sure to rain down destruction and everyone wanted to watch the event.
 
Mrs. Clower then gave the "everyone has to take their turn" speech.  Jack just slide down a little more in his seat, his eyes focused on some imaginary spot on his desk.  He again shook his head no.  There was no rustle of paper or any whispering in the room.  The silence was deafening as everyone awaited Mrs. Clower's wrath.
 
Mrs. Clower then gave Jack the option of standing at his desk and telling his story.  Jack slid lower, his eyes still transfixed on the spot.  All eyes in the class danced back and forth between Jack and Mrs. Clower.  Jack never moved a muscle.
 
Mrs. Clower then rose from her chair, her eyes fixed on Jack and in one swoop grabbed the paddle from it's resting place on the window ledge.  She strode angrily back to Jack's seat and laid the paddle on his desk.  Jack didn't twitch.
 
"Mr. Hudson.  You will do as everyone else has done or you will suffer the consequence!" Her voice quivered with anger as she struggled to contain herself.
 
"Mrs. Clower" Jack's voice was almost a wisher, "I didn't get anything."
 
All eyes in the class now shifted back to an imaginary spot on our own desks.  Mrs. Clower stood there motionless for a few seconds then she ran out the door.  There was no talking, whispering or any movement within the room.  After a few minutes, Mrs. Clower returned through the door with a handful of Kleenexes, her eyes red and swelled.  She never said a word, just wrote our reading assignment on the blackboard and returned to her desk.  Mrs. Clower made several trips outside the room that day. 
 
That particular story took a lot of the "fun" out of Christmas for me.  As my girls were growing up, anytime Dad would be called a "scrooge" they would be told "The Story".  Finally, one of the girls came up with a plan of how to get the fun back in Christmas for ole dad and it is now a tradition.
 
We each draw names early in the year.  You look for a "cause to do good" for that family member.  Then on Christmas day you present that family member with a letter of what was done in his/her name.  It can be a donation of money for a specific charity or a donation of time in helping or anything in between.  The letter explains why you chose that event in their name.
 
Each Christmas I am amazed even more than the last at how creative the gifts can be.  Not only does it make us more mindful of being a good Samaritan at times, but it is uplifting to know how your "gift giver" sees you.
Dennis

8 comments:

crabby old man said...

Sad story that is why My VFW post has a toy drive every Christmas, so there are less kids like Jack

Janie said...

That is an awesome story.

Thanks for sharing!

The Ponderer said...

Now that is a great story. And what a great family tradition!

If we are able to read this blog from our chairs in our nice warm homes our kids and grandkids probably did not have a Christmas like Jack.

This year we participated in my company's drive called, Season's Readings. We donated some new and some gently used books for children to receive for Christmas.
Maverick was surprised there are children who do not have books to read before they go to bed each night.

We are very blessed and this story reminds of that.

Jenni said...

I knew how that story would go from the beginning of the second paragraph. I grew up pretty poor, though perhaps not as poor as Jack since I always got something. Still, I hated being asked to tell about what I got in front of the class. I was a shy kid anyway and I knew that my gifts would not be like theirs. I didn't mind not having all the things some of my classmates had, I just didn't like how telling about it set me up as a potential target for jokes. Sometimes kids can be cruel. If they already teased me about my thrift store clothes and Payless shoes, why wouldn't they tease me about what I did or did not get for Christmas? They never did tease me about that, but it was embarrassing nonetheless. We were poor, but we were proud.

I do hope Mrs. Clower learned a lesson that day. I don't know how people can be so blind and insensitive. She should have apologized immediately and in front of the class for her mistake. At least she probably never made that mistake again and hopefully had her eyes opened a little.

I love your Christmas tradition. What a lovely idea to put some thought and meaning into what too easily becomes a season of greed and overindulgence. I've tried suggesting that we do something like this with our extended families rather than the gift exchanges and dirty Santa games. This seems to be the most meaningless and least appreciated gift giving anyway. Suggesting changes to traditions can be a touchy matter though. Maybe we will have to start things off by giving both kinds of gifts as one: a little trinket alongside an explanation of something charitable done in their name. I'd really love it if we could get the whole family to do something like work Toys for Tots together or serve dinner at a soup kitchen.

KsCowboy said...

Patricia has left a new comment on your post "Christmas my way":

What an excellent idea.


(somehow I hit the wrong button and deleted this comment)

Anonymous said...

I wish I could find something more articulate to say than "WOW". But "WOW" is just about all that I can muster. What a tragic and beautiful story all wrapped up into one.
Susie (Trisha's parole officer... she has really been behaving lately!)

MUD said...

I tried to tell this story to Barb and I had tears in my eyes. She knew that the teacher was wrong long before I got to the end of the story. We discussed having the gift giving tradition and I may use the story in a blog to my family to help head them in that direction. MUD aka the 'nother Dennis

In_spired said...

Well, Cowboy...I would say I'm a little late in reading this post! I've had a hard time getting back into "the groove" after having our little routine changed for the holidays! NOT that I'm complaining...we've had a great time and had a wonderful Christmas with our little family!

I love your stories and this, especially, is a great post.

We're "agonna" have a great New Year!! Thanks for being a blogging buddy...