Part Two of our trip to NYC at Christmas time.
Part one is here.
Over the last week or two I have observed some interesting things involving people all around me. Keep in mind, it’s Christmas time, and people are supposed to be at their best, right?
I know many people think of yellow traffic lights as an opportunity to maintain, or slightly increase, speed in order to continue their travel without having another stop added to the route. I have been guilty here as well. That’s yellow lights. Another word beginning with the letter Y has really caught my attention, especially in the last couple of weeks. That word is Yield. Yield means to surrender, or in traffic terms, to let another pass. Now I honestly can tell you that I too have taken the initiative at times to help another motorist or two understand the meaning of yield a little more clearly. I have also, at times, appointed myself judge and jury on the spot, and decided that the driver with the right of way has indeed surrendered their right of way thus allowing me to take it and run with it. The latter has been a lesson in yield abuse and what you get when everyone on the planet knows the motorist has the right of way, but they decide to either slow down to a crawl on the highway and allow a driver entrance from the ramp, or stop in the middle of a road to allow someone waiting at a stop sign to enter the road they are already traveling on.
If a driver wants to slow down to 30 MPH on the highway and allow me onto the highway from the on-ramp, and I stand my ground, by actually yielding (while verbally addressing them with a quick dissertation on the meaning of yield and hoping they learn from this) to them as they endanger everyone else around them, then maybe I shouldn’t yield at all.
On the other hand, I was speeding along nicely the other day when the other kind of yield was unfolding. This would be the anti-yield. Someone performing the anti-yield would simply define the term something like this: I am too busy, or going to fast to yield to you or anyone else. Unlike a yellow light, when I take an immediate interest in going as fast as I can to beat the inanimate light before it changes from the cowardly but opportunistic, color yellow; I have singled you out, and now am accelerating on a single lane ramp with a sharp turn or incline, or both, so as to get ahead of you on the highway. I know that I can probably just as easily yield to you and pass you as soon as I lawfully enter the highway, but this is more fun; and I must be more important than you. It also doesn’t matter that I am going to exit on the next exit and make you wonder why I had to get in front of you to begin with, seeing you already were on the highway before I was. Also, if you don’t let me on to the highway as I anti-yield, then I will forever (or at least as long as I can see you or remember your plate number) hold a grudge and act like a raging lunatic as I pass you, scream at you, gesture at you, etc.
In my situation I was in the right lane. The car coming up on my left was going faster than I was, not by much, but I knew the space was closing, and I didn’t have the need or desire to go faster than I was so I stayed in the right lane. On my right comes a driver who is clearly more important than the rest of us in the afternoon traffic. Also I imagine this driver was nothing short of a genius as he assessed the dozens of cars already on the highway, in traffic, doing the speed limit or better, and figured he needed to be on the highway more than we did. Now upon recognizing the situation, and realizing what was happening on my left and right sides, I did an amazing, and apparent to one driver (the guy on my right) an unlawful thing. I continued in my lane. I just drove straight ahead, almost as if the guy on my right wasn’t there, or as if he were supposed to yield to the car that already occupied the space in the lane on the highway that he was trying to take. This guy sped along the breakdown lane for a second as if to convince me of his importance and his rightful spot ahead of me. Again, I went way over the legal line by just continuing to drive in my lane at highway speed with cars directly in front of me and behind me. Now I haven’t seen this guy interact with a yellow light but I am guessing he doesn’t single them out and yell, scream, and gesture at the lights when he rushes through them, but he seemed quite interested and animated to see me for some reason.
Then there was the other day when I ventured out to do some Christmas shopping. I was alone with thousands of other shoppers for about two hours. In those two hours I did enjoy some Christmas music. I almost was in a fight or had to break up a fight, I am not sure still. I was yelled at for pulling into a parking spot that someone else was trying to pull through from the other side. I was yelled at for crossing on the cross walk directly in front of the store by a guy who didn’t want to stop and let people cross on the cross walk in front of him even though I could have reached out and touched the STOP sign that was standing there as a silent but obvious recommendation to the drivers in the area. I was encouraged to move up in the line waiting to check out at the register so we could all wait in line three feet closer to the registers than we just were. I did see plenty of people enjoying the shopping. I saw people talking over their lists. I saw people singing Christmas tunes and happily hug one another as they ran into friends and family. I saw people help one another; whether it be picking up something that was dropped, or grabbing something for someone who couldn’t reach, or even directing traffic so others could back out of their spot safely.
Okay, about the fight thing. I was walking in a store, enjoying myself and listening to the music. I had a mental list of things I was looking for and the list was expanding. Anyways, I suddenly was face to face (well he was a lot shorter than me, but you get the idea) with a guy who was swearing out loud and threatening someone in my direction. I didn’t see anyone else paying any attention to him and I thought he’s either got a beef with me or a ghost of Christmas past somewhere. He was pretty heated and looking right in my direction. I continued in my direction and asked if he was having a problem, to which he said, “No, not you” and continued telling someone he could beat the this or that out of them. Then I saw another guy acknowledge the guy who was yelling. I stopped and watched for a moment as the two men bumped their carts against each other like 3-year-old kids would while playing around. The guy doing all the yelling had his daughter (I am guessing) sitting in the cart he was pushing and jostling with. She couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old. She was a beautiful little girl and I felt bad that this was how her Christmas shopping experience was going. I stood there long enough to ensure that the two guys went their separate ways and nothing else happened. I don’t know what I would have done had they escalated but I am glad the little girl was spared any further lack of example for that moment.
Later, at a different store, I was checking out and waiting for the register to complete the transaction. Most of my purchase was baby food and milk. I asked the woman helping me if she had finished all of her shopping yet. She said, “No Christmas this year, I don’t have the money”. Then she proceeded to tell me about her daughter in college and they only get so much time together, and her daughter understands about no gifts, and they will get something later, maybe after her tax return, and she had to buy books, and so on. This was not even close to an answer I was expecting to receive from a woman wearing a Santa hat the week before Christmas. I asked her if her daughter would be getting her a gift this year and she admitted she probably would because she “always does”. I took the liberty to say something like, well maybe you could give her a gift of more time. I continued with something along these lines, maybe you could write something out and wrap it up or put it in a card and let her know how valuable the time with her is to you. I told her how important every minute with my kids is to me, especially at Christmas time. She looked at me and smiled a little smile, and said that might be a good idea. I told her that, “Either way, Christmas is coming on Sunday and you don’t need money to participate.” She agreed and wished me a Merry Christmas as I walked away.
In the last couple of weeks I have also gone out of my way to verbally wish many people a Merry Christmas. I mean people I don’t know. So far nobody has told me they are offended and all have wished me the same. I have even had two different people thank me for wishing them a Merry Christmas and tell me that they wish more people said those words. So, now we are so politically out of whack that we have gone from everyone wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, to, just a few do, to, it could be offensive to say Merry Christmas to strangers, to, being thanked by someone for saying Merry Christmas, like it’s wrong to get caught saying it. Come on. This is our culture, is it not? Wasn’t our country founded by God-fearing patriots? Does In God We Trust ring a bell? God gave us the greatest gift of all, his Son. That’s why there is a Christmas. If I go to another land where Christmas is not the culture then they can get offended if I say Merry Christmas. People, our parents, our grandparents, and their parents, they celebrated Christmas. Probably more than we did. And guess what else, they wished everyone Merry Christmas because that’s what Americans and Canadians believe, or at least it’s in our culture.
There are five days left until Christmas 2011. I have nearly completed my shopping. I am looking forward to the time I get to spend with family in the next several days. I love gifts. I love giving to others even more. But I love spending time together with family and friends even more. And now my mind has shifted just a bit as I go into one of my rants, remembrances, or whatever you call it.
There is nothing like sitting with my wife, hand in hand, watching our family open gifts, or watching our nephews contort their faces to express the varying degrees of joy and excitement they feel when opening even a simple gift. There is nothing better than watching my mom and dad as they watch their kids and grand kids sharing in the moments. I look at my parents’ eyes and I wonder where it all ranks in those eyes that have seen so many things over the years. I look around and see my brothers and sister, all grown up, and I think of us as kids coming together on Christmas morning. I think about how I used to feel the Christmas morning chill that resided somewhere in the six inches closest to the floor and how I couldn’t wait for dad to get the fire going in the fireplace. I remember jockeying for a spot near the fireplace so we could warm ourselves to the point of discomfort before we relocated. I think about my brother and I hanging upside down from the top of the stairs trying to get the first glimpses of Christmas morning and any big gifts that may have been left unwrapped for us. I want so bad for our kids, the kids of today, to be as thrilled and excited about all this as I remember being when I was a kid. I want to share the feeling that getting little or nothing can be just as great a feeling, and that none of us are entitled to any of the things we asked for just because we asked or just because Christmas comes every year.
Giving is the gift. That is what God did. He gave us his Son. Sometimes as parents we wonder if the gift is worthy of being given, or even if the recipient is worthy of receiving it, but we still give. God gave and He knew the answer to those same questions. Give what you can. It will come back to you whether you do or you don’t. There’s some days left before Christmas and there will be time over the weekend to give. Give of yourself. Chances are there will be somebody close to you that would love nothing more than the time spent with you. You don’t even need to know who or why, you just need to be present and it would help to soften your heart a little.
Merry Christmas everyone. I can’t say it enough. ‘Tis the season…to observe and share. Merry Christmas.