Last week was a particularly hard week for us. My wife is in retail management, so that means we all have to follow the life patterns of the craziest time of the year. Sales were very strong for our Barnes & Noble and the few times I foolishly ventured near the shopping center, I almost cried since it was so hard to get out. But considering just how bad last week was, none of us was prepared for this simple fact: people would be such Jack Asses yesterday.
I did ponder this the other day as I was writing my request that people not wish me “Merry Christmas” before it actually was. I thought about the potential that the actual Christmas season: the time from Christmas to Epiphany: that time that we should be celebrating the 12 days of Christmas and reveling in the “Christmas Spirit” is the time it all goes into hibernation until next October. I didn’t write it, but I briefly thought about how rude people might be and how all of that hope and good cheer of Christmas isn’t likely to last. The militants, so eager to demand feilty to the Merry Christmas Mafia would abandon their cause at the first opportunity to make it all about me-me-me again.
Oh, did they.
I thankfully stayed here today and welcomed some good friends into my home. They brought lunch and I let them entertain my children. How kind of me, really. So I didn’t venture out. But when my wife got home, well, it wasn’t pretty.
She is very pretty. But she look beat down. After the past week in which she was exhausted and a little irritated, but mostly excited, she came home despondent. She dealt with the rudest and meanest customers all year. She dealt with insufferable, arrogant, pig-headed people. The kind of “customers” in which the people after them in line have to make some kind of joke out of self defense. The please-don’t-hate-me-I’m-not-like-them joke that both lightens the mood and demonstrates to the employee she isn’t alone in thinking that rude person was in fact rude.
I wonder what it would be like if we started treating Advent like Advent and Christmas like Christmas, regardless of what the world does. If we started getting together for Advent parties that are subdued and hopeful, then great big ruckus Christmas parties a few days into Christmas. If we continued to wish Merry Christmas to people for the full twelve days. If we continued to spread the love and joy of Christmas beyond the confines of the one all-too-short day we label as “Christmas Day”. If we loved the jerks at their jerkiest–even when it happens to fall on the worst day to do so.
What if we no longer expected Black Friday and Boxing Day to be the two worst days to go out in public? What if we instead expected the love, temperance, and generosity that characterize the season? Would we even recognize our neighbors?