News and Tribune

December 28, 2013

DODD: Christmas really packs a punch

Local columnist

“I looked up the family tree and found out I was the sap.” — Rodney Dangerfield

My son shared a Facebook post with me that I had to share with all of my friends. While I can’t attest to the truthfulness of this post and for obvious reasons will not publish the family name, here it is as it was sent to my son’s Facebook feed.

“My family beats yours. On Christmas Eve my grandma broke my mom’s nose. Lmfao like wut. Thank you Scrabble.”

While we all like to picture the Hallmark post card for the Christmas family portrait, real life doesn’t always measure up. Like I have written many times, every family is dysfunctional in its own unique way. My other way to say it is simply that we choose our friends and are stuck with our family.

I love my family like the next guy. However, some people often put way too much hope and effort into that perfect family gathering. Most families can’t always live up to the Walton’s family Christmas.

I have heard many stories from past family gatherings and I am sure I will hear many more in the future where their own version of the Waltons sounds more like a redneck wedding reception combining the Hatfields and McCoys.

But, hey, it’s Christmas. The people you don’t choose to see every week are supposed to get together and behave for a couple of hours on special days. For the most part, there are reasons that people who see each other only on holidays see each other often only on holidays. It’s not always only time and distance that keeps them apart.

The family holiday gatherings usually include in-laws. I know from many a story told to me from friends about their families and in-laws that just because some member of your family falls in love with somebody, that fact doesn’t in itself make them lovable. Sometimes it’s simply tolerances that makes for the peace and not love.

My own family has stories of family gatherings that have gone terribly awry over the years. There is almost a legendary story from what I think I remember as a Mother’s Day family Wiffle ball game that ended just short of a brawl at home plate. Without recounting the horrible details, just say that often a sibling competitive rivalry can last well into the adult years.

Two subjects that should never be discussed at an extended family gathering are religion and politics; followed closely behind by favorite sports teams. If one of these discussions ever takes place in your living room and the voices do not end up getting loud, congratulations, you might actually be the Walton family.

My experience has been over the years that family gatherings can go either way. There is usually a combination of excitement and nervous anticipation for me. I am certain that my own family is not unique in such things from all of the stories co-workers and friends continue to share with me from over the years.

Love is often a very complicated relationship. There are people you can love but that love is best shared on a rare occasion. In some cases, once or twice a year might be just the right amount of time.

However your family gatherings went this year, I always feel like I breathe a sigh of relief when it’s all over. Most people know I am a Christmas guy who loves the spirit that fills the air from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. However, when the 26th of December rolls around, I am ready to move on to the regular routine of life. I do often wonder why the spirit of giving and understanding of the season cannot somehow be there for everyone throughout the year.

However, I guess if that was the case, there wouldn’t be as much special as there is about Christmas. Perhaps we couldn’t all stand to have to express that much gratitude, warmth and tolerance for people for an entire year. Perhaps we just are not that good of people as we can seemingly act for a month.

As far as that lady with the broken nose, I hope she is breathing a bit easier today. I guess some people take spirit of the holiday song “Deck the Halls” a bit more literally than others.

I would like to know the actual word that led to the physical injury. I bet it was one of those words someone tried to make up that contains a Q or a Z. And I bet they didn’t have a dictionary close at hand.


One family gave to a sightless person in a wheelchair who was buying gifts for their nieces and nephews who had been abandoned. Another simply chose a mother who was watching her children play in the mall playground area who had a calm demeanor about her in the middle of the Christmas hustle and what she referred to as the most pleasant and contented smile. Another couple stopped at a pay-by-the-week motel after they heard a family that lived there walked around a local neighborhood where the three young daughters offered to shovel driveways for $5.

I also heard from another friend who read the column and thought about it while shopping at a local store. She knew the clerk was working into her retirement years and had a disabled husband. She handed her some cash at the check-out line and simply wished her, “Merry Christmas.” As she described it for me, she only had a $20 bill, but the lady began shaking and crying and came out from behind the counter for a warm hug and kiss.

There were so many wonderful stories from people who took part in our goal of having 50 people hand out $50 this holiday season for no other reason than kindness. I have had people express a desire to do it again next year; some who participated this year and more who did not. We will see. I will probably make it and annual tradition for Kim and myself.

For whatever reason, we got a lot of joy not only from our own participation, but from all the good stories as well. I simply wish to thank everyone who participated. It was a rewarding and humbling experience for all of us.

There certainly is truth to that old adage that it is better to give than to receive. I also believe that good deeds probably do come back about tenfold to those who perform them.

I offer up my wishes for a Happy New Year to all of my friends and regular readers, most of whom I consider to be one and the same. If you ever want to share an anonymous holiday horror story, I am all ears and keyboard.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at