Walking into Christmas with open eyes, full heart

Mike Brown

I went on my more-or-less daily walk about 4 p.m. Christmas Day.

It’s more- or- less because I know I’m supposed to do it, but up until about five minutes before I hit the road I have to convince myself that I need to do it.

You know those cartoons that show a little angel perched on one shoulder of a character and a little devil on the other?

(Well, they used to have them. I’m sure today’s cartoons would never have anything with such obvious religious symbolism.)

That’s me. I can always come up with some excellent excuse not to exercise.

• It’s too hot (in our ninemonth summers).

• It’s too cold (in our threemonth winters).

• I can’t find my “ walking” shirt. (Can’t say that too loudly because my wife will tell me where it is.)

• I really ought to walk the dogs but since there are two of them and I can’t handle both at once, I’ll just stay inside.

• I walked yesterday, didn’t I? Well, even if I didn’t, I can always walk tomorrow.

• The dogs ate my shoes.

• The dogs ate my feet.

• I really ought to clean up the kitchen. (This is a good one because it can be inverted. As in “I can’t clean up the kitchen, because I ought to walk.”)

But I finally ran out of excuses and hit the streets. And I’m glad I did because that walk made me feel good.

It just felt different because it was Christmas. Like there was really peace on earth, good will toward men coming down all around me with the reddish brown oak leaves. Familiar driveways all along my route were groaning with cars, some of which bore out-ofstate plates.

Families together for Christmas, I thought. I’ll bet they’re inside, living rooms with a tsunami of crumpled and torn wrapping paper, in a happy fog from the morning’s, or previous night’s, unwrapping frenzy.

Lots of kids outside. At the end of my block a couple of happy youngsters race around in a back yard with a pair of yapping dogs and red-and-blue plastic things which I immediately interpreted as just-got-today gifts.

The thump-thump-thumps a couple of blocks further on turn into a basketball game. The basketball doesn’t look new but the portable goal sure does. I wonder how dad and mom kept that one hidden without the kids guessing what they were getting? At the intersection that marks the northeast point of my route, two happy little ones on brand new tough plastic bikes come barreling down a sidewalk, only braking when their grandmother sticks her head out the front door and cautions them not to get in the street.

I wonder how many times this scene is being repeated all over the world today? Makes me feel good and I still don’t know why.

Down the block there are people gathered at the side of the street around an open car trunk, wedging packages and clothes inside.

Doesn’t take me long to figure out it’s a couple, or more, generations saying their goodbyes after sharing Christmas together.

It’s kind of an intimate moment, with lots of emotion, and I don’t want to intrude, even though I know some of them. There are lots of hugs and then the car pulls away, up the hill, with granddad standing at the curb waving goodbye.

And I think, many times this Christmas, and others, I’ve heard and seen indignant comments about how “commercial” and “mercantilist” Christmas has become. All those gifts, all that money, how ashamed we should all be. Spend, spend, spend

Well, sure we can lose sight of what’s real. It’s always a risk.

But what I’ve just seen in the last couple of miles tells me that lots of people spend and give because their hearts are really grounded and in the right place.

Maybe that’s why this makes me feel so good.

Okay, I better go around the block a couple more times.

If I get home right now I know I’m going to have to clean up the kitchen.

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2014-01-02 digital edition

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