I was fifth in my line at the supermarket.
I never use the self-checkout because I prefer to discuss my concerns with a real person when an incorrect price shows up on the screen. Plus, I like it when someone acknowledges my existence.
The guy directly in front of me, probably in his mid 50s, was wearing a torn and worn Crimson Tide cap that had been through its share of wins and celebrations, but a full week after a stunning loss to Auburn he was on his phone complaining to someone about the refs, the coaching — everything. He was obnoxious and very loud, using vulgar language better saved for a conversation in a Tuscaloosa bar. I’m thinking, “This guy is such a loser. I’d like to grab the phone out of his hand, smash it with my foot, and deal with the consequences.” Not my style. Maybe when I was younger I’d react like that. Been there, done that.
Finally, after the young clerk finished his transaction in a sweet voice she said, “Thank you. Have a blessed day.” He shot back, “I’m not Christian and don’t need blessings.” I was surprised and shocked at his abrupt and forceful response, but really I wasn’t.
As the clerk went through my items I said “What an idiot.” She told me it was the first time anyone ever reacted to her in such a way. She seemed a bit upset, and I assured her that only someone with serious issues would find such a kind comment so troubling.
I dropped a couple of dollars into the Salvation Army kettle on the way out, and was thanked with a sincere “God bless you. Merry Christmas.” Walking to my car I began thinking about what I had just witnessed, both inside the store and on the way out.
At this wonderful time of the year, when someone says “Happy Holidays” to me, I understand it. It’s a general sentiment that covers a lot of territory. It’s nice. It’s cordial. No complaints about it. But it could also indicate that some level of political or social correctness has guided the person to avoid saying “Merry Christmas,” maybe assuming I am not a Christian and would be offended. Again, I get it. But I say “Merry Christmas” to everyone, regardless of what they may say to me first. It they don’t like, it’s for them to deal with.
I am not a native of Mississippi, but have lived here for a decade and became an Ole Miss fan after my first visit to Oxford for a business conference. I grew up an Army brat, and I can’t possibly remember all of the addresses my family called home, domestic and international. But I love the life I have here with my wife, children and our friends. We get to do things here in Mississippi that many people in other states can’t do, or are afraid to do.
For example, we have a nicely lit Nativity scene on our front lawn. Do you know that in many cities and towns around the U.S. something so simple, on your own private property, might be protested by neighbors, any number of religious interest groups, civic leaders, and people whose lives are so dismal they can’t understand why anyone can be happy and find joy in something so beautiful? The daily news is filled with stories about the ‘War Against Christmas.’ It gets worse every year. Don’t like what you see on my lawn? Just drive by. Ignore it. Stay out of my face and away from my family.
I like seeing Christmas decorations in public buildings and businesses. You see much more of that here in Mississippi, and the other deep south states. You know that some businesses around the country avoid even giving a tiny candy cane to a child accompanying a parent who just dropped $500 on gifts because they feel it’s politically incorrect? A candy cane means, in their distorted reasoning, that the customer might think some manner of religious conversion was being attempted. Clerks and office workers are told to avoid saying “Merry Christmas” at all costs. They could lose their jobs if they ‘slip’ and forget to say “Happy Holidays” instead. Some lose their jobs. That is so sad.
It all comes down to freedom. And here in Mississippi, many of our most basic freedoms are appreciated and implemented in ways, I believe, others around the country desperately envy, although many might not admit it in public forums. I can keep a loaded 12 gauge shotgun tucked away safely at home to protect my family. With a special license in my wallet I can carry a pistol in my pocket. You hear about those ‘knockout attacks’ around the country. I haven’t heard of any such sick attacks other than in cities where a citizen cannot carry a weapon, or access is highly limited. Let’s see a punk from New York City or Detroit try that in downtown Brandon, Mississippi. He might get a whack or two in, but it wouldn’t match the feeling of a .357 magnum round as it cuts him in half as he cowardly flees.
And speaking of New York City, I have always enjoyed my visits there. And this time of year is one of my favorite opportunities to take the family for shopping and shows. Christmas scenes and decorations are everywhere. What’s different is that in private and public conversations I’m guessing that you’ll hear “Happy Holidays’ more often than “Merry Christmas.” Don’t offend anyone. Just keep moving.
This quote from Homer can be taken in many ways: “I detest the man who hides one thing in the depth of his heart and speaks forth another.” You can debate all day long about what is being said here.
To me, it says that “Merry Christmas” has, and will always be, in my heart, and therefore I will say it. I will not hide it. There are those, like that Alabama fan who can’t even handle a generic nicety, who would prefer that Christmas somehow just go away.
Hold on to what you know and believe is real. You never know how your own personal strength of conviction might be what makes an uplifting and positive change to someone’s life. Just like the clerk at the supermarket. No agenda. No hiding. She wasn’t just saying it. She meant it.
“Merry Christmas” to you and yours. Godspeed.
Tim Davis is a business consultant. His daughter hopes to attend Ole Miss after high school graduation in 2015.