"I committed the unpardonable sin," I say to my mother.
"Are you shopping at Costco on the Saturday a week before Christmas?"
My mom is not only brilliant but intuitive.
But the truth is, I'm feeling extremely joyful on this day when perhaps I have a reason not to. The stores are crowded and the traffic is horrible; it takes three light changes to make it through. The horn honking sounds like I'm in New York.
I owe my joy and peace in the car to Ira Glass and This American Life. I'm enjoying his Christmas story broadcast so much, I actually slow down and feel bad when my errands are finished.
The first story that grips my heart is about a man whose four-year-old daughter asked him, "How did Christmas start?"
He explained about the birth of Jesus Christ. The explanation satisfied his daughter who understood the concept of a birthday, gifts, and a Savior who espoused "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Later, while driving, he and his daughter passed a church where a statue of Jesus hanging on the cross caught her attention. Oops, he hadn't told her that part of the story, and when he explained to her that Jesus' thoughts were so radical that they killed him, it broke my heart, and I cried. From a radio story. It's a story I already knew well, but to hear it in his words, from his perspective, and to learn from his daughter's innocence--the tragedy compounded.
After Christmas came Martin Luther King Day, and again, his daughter asked him who this man was. The story was tragically filled with the same elements: a man with ideas so radical, they killed him...
Again, it broke my heart and I cried.
A woman tells the second story on This American Life. Christmas morning, she and her sister awake to find one big, wrapped box in the living room. With all the pent-up anticipation of a Christmas gift, she and her sister unwrap the box to find two black tissue boxes, decorated with painted flowers. The woman, as a little girl, burst into tears. Her older sister, changes the moment by her excitement for the tissue boxes painted by trained monkeys!
The tissue box becomes one of her prize possessions. Years later, she finds an essay written by her sister.
On that Christmas morning, she too had wanted to burst into tears, but she saved those tears for later in the privacy of her own bed. What she had chosen instead was to save Christmas for her little sister. She knew how poor her parents were and how hard it was for them to take charity from others. The tissue boxes were painted by their friend. She imagined in that split second, the boxes were painted by trained monkeys. Her reflective essay regretted most that she was forced to act like an adult on that Christmas day.
The stories change my perspective for the day. I feel blessed instead of tortured. Ira Glass says he will be back next week with more Christmas stories. It will be Christmas Eve day--and inevitably, I'll be back too, fighting the last minute rush of people and chaos, in between it all, within the peace of my car-- with Ira Glass.
Postscript: As expected, I head out on Christmas Eve day! But my driving around is not in the company of Ira Glass~~~even better(sorry Ira)~~it's with my daughter who has joined me for the last minute and joyful generosity of pre-giving.