Hard Candy Christmas

          A bank executive chokes on a goose bone at Christmas dinner, and then finds himself in a queue at St. Peter’s turnstile. He is livid about the queue thing. The winged assistant at this turnstile sits at a white cloud desk and reads over a long scroll.

          Impatient, the executive pushes past the queue and attempts to enter through the turnstile, “let me pass, don’t you know who I am?” He shouts. The turnstile is locked tight.

           “I can’t seem to find your name on this scroll.” The angel replies.

           “What?” He pounds his fist on the desk. “You must be looking at the wrong one. I am on the executive list.”

           “Hum?” The angel flaps his wings puzzled.

           “I performed many community services. Once, I gave a nickel to a homeless woman in the park, and, I gave a nickel to a food drive downtown.”

           “Hum?” The angle continues to search.

           “What the hell is taking so damn long? I gave a nickel to a Salvation Army Santa last Christmas. You obviously don’t know what you are doing.” The executive puffs up his chest and hovers over the angel.

           “Just a minute, I’ll check upstairs.” The angel picks up a golden phone with one button on it. “Yes, says he gave nickels to charity as good works and should be let in. He had a executive golden parachute.”

           “Well? Idiot. Let me talk to your boss.” The executive taps his lizard tassel loafers on the cloudbank.

           “Yes, uh huh, yes, really, hee-haw, hee.” The assistant snickers and hangs up the phone. He looks up at the man and digs for something in his robe. A bag of cement lowers from above and lands on the desk between the angel and the executive.

           “Here’s your parachute, and here’s your 15 cents. You can go to hell.”

                                                                    ✩✩✩✩✩

          I, Keith Echo, am formally issuing a challenge to all of those other human beings out there, wherever you are, whoever you are. Even though the economy appears to finally be hitting the bottom, it is still tough all over: it’s tough in the cities, tough in the suburbs, and tough on the farm. Charitable contributions are down.

          Food banks, toy drives, and every other non-profit are doubly hit from recent financial machinations; one, their portfolio’s are worth less, and two, cash at their root constituent level, the consumer, is in short supply. Even if you can’t get that tax credit you have come to depend on, if you have just a few additional dollars this Holiday Season, make good use of them. Take a stand, draw a line in the sand; please donate to your favorite charity.

          I am no different, but my favorite charity this time of year is toy drives. I don’t have any children, just nephews and nieces, but I love to play Santa. It is shallow, even a selfish, guilty pleasure to be an anonymous random Santa. I love to go out in the chaos of Christmas bedlam and root around the toy isle, filling a couple of carts with multiples of random age toys.

Xmas Donation 2009

The back of the Element/sled loaded with a toy donation.

           I buy what I or E would have liked, but no batteries required. I buy basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, Barbie dolls, games, drawing tools, books, scale automobiles, stuffed animals, whatever is new, but doesn’t require a power source. I also try to avoid violent toys, not because I wouldn’t want them, but because that is the parent’s choice. Nothing cost more than $20, which will not even pay for coffee for a month. I donate to SF Fireman’s Toy Drive, and this year, I’ve doubled my budget.

          I know what it is like to wake up to a hard candy Christmas with only a donation sock from a small town fire department. We were grateful. When I was a child, we didn’t go hungry, but we didn’t always have a toy-rich Christmas. A winter coat or socks and underwear were fine. My Dad was a teacher and my mom worked in a catalog store warehouse; there were three children, all a year apart. We had a modern aluminum tree and light wheel, not because it was high fashion, my mom got it for a song at the store’s bargain-attic with an employee discount. It was less expensive over the lean years.

          I will never forget those visits to the local firehouse to sit on Santa’s lap, and the stockings the firemen would hand out. Usually it was packed with oranges, apples, pecans, hard candy, and a dime store toy, a Matchbox car or jump rope and jacks. The hood and doors on my green ’67 Pontiac Cougar Matchbox opened, and it could become a jet, a flying car for the superhero of my imagination or my Dad’s.

          Please, this year even if the 401k is not doing well, or the company had to hold back raises, or you are unemployed, try to find that $50, $20, $10, $5, even $1 dollar donation, whatever you can afford. It doesn’t have to be large, even a small amount can go a long way to making someone’s Holiday a little brighter, a little more joyous. Our world could sure use a little more joy, and I’ll bet, you will feel it in triple.

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