It was a crazy idea. But then again it was the Christmas season. And whoever came up with the American idea of Christmas itself had to be a little crazy to begin with.

Think about it. A man climbs a two-story ladder and staples six thousand little lights to his gutter then takes them down in three weeks, that’s not exactly normal.

So we decided we would go caroling one year. I was a young man. We came up with this idea during an employee Christmas party at a Mexican restaurant one evening when they were serving half-price margaritas.

We left the restaurant and chose neighborhoods at random. We sang carols on front lawns until many kindhearted homeowners opened their doors and became so moved by our holiday spirit that they called the police.

It didn’t take long to realize that we didn’t know more than two carols. So eventually we quit singing carols and started singing tunes like “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac, and “Muskrat Love” by Captain and

Tenille. My old coworker Ellen, who is still a close friend, led the singing with a stunning voice that was reminiscent of the late Yosemite Sam.

We had so much fun that we decided to do it again the following year. Our employee manager, Ken, held a few preliminary rehearsals at his house. And by “rehearsals” I mean that we played Texas Hold’em in Ken’s basement.

As it happened, that night Ken’s wife had also invited twenty-four additional vocalists to join our choral group. Ken was not happy about this because these were not just any old singers, these were people who sang in the Southern Baptist choir with Ken’s wife.

I want to stress here that Southern Baptists are wonderful people, don’t get me wrong, I was raised Baptist. I know every word to “Just As I Am.” But many Baptists do not even allow Listerine in…

I am an honorary Alabamian, even though Florida is my home state. It’s kind of a long story, but I promise, if you bear with me, this will be a complete waste of your time.

It started in a hotel lobby full of Alabama officials. It was sort of like spring break check-in at some fancy resort. Only these weren’t teenagers with suntans. These were white-haired people with sport coats and extremely low centers of gravity.

I went to the front desk and checked into my hotel room.

A guy behind me in line said, “So, you’re the keynote speaker for the Alabama Governor’s Conference?”


“Where in Alabama are you from?”

“I’m from Florida.”

“What? And YOU’RE our keynote speaker?”

“That’s right.”

To which he replied, “Huh!”

The enormous auditorium started to fill up. And I’m talking about a room the size of a rural school district. I kept having this feeling that I didn’t belong here. What was I doing? I’m not an Alabamian. I was starting to feel pretty dumb.

Another man shook my hand and said, “So, what part of Alabama are you


“I’m not,” I said. “I’m from the Panhandle.”

He gave a confused look, then he said “Why on earth did they hire you?”

So things were off to a great start.

I took the stage. I tapped the microphone. I said, “Hello, is this thing on?” But it turned out that the sound system was screwed up. What everyone heard was:


And that’s how the next forty minutes went.

When I finished, nobody was aware that I had concluded my speech because my voice was still reverberating in the airplane-hangar-like room. For all I know my voice is still echoing in that auditorium to this day.

The thing is, I truly love Alabama. That’s probably why I was asked to speak. I write more columns about Alabama than I do about…

The little girl talked too much. That’s what teachers said about her. On the first day of class, they moved her to the front of the room because of this.

It wasn’t that she wouldn’t stop talking. It was that she couldn’t. It was involuntary. A reflex. A superpower.

Her smile is another of her gifts. It’s a quirky smile passed down from her mother. Her mother had a lazy eye and saw double. Whenever her mother smiled for cameras, she tilted her head to correct her vision.

The little girl picked up this habit. Today, she can’t smile without leaning left.

She joined the workforce at age twelve, waiting tables. By her teenage years, she worked at a nursing home.

In high school, she met this fella. He was wild, he liked to party. His major hobbies included Budweiser and ice cream. And she loved him.

They would marry. And they would make a life for themselves. The young man would work labor jobs until he became a steelworker. She too, would put in long hours

to pay bills.

In her early twenties, she was fed up with small paychecks. She wanted to go to school. It was an outlandish idea, but she enrolled anyway.

She passed her classes with flying colors. And when she finished her degree, she decided she wasn’t finished.

“I wanna go into the medical field,” she told her husband.

“Do what?” he said.

She took classes, but they were hard, and demanding, and expensive. The science courses were torture. So, she used her superpower. She talked. She made conversation with the smart students and the teachers. They helped her through. In a few years, she was a therapist. Bona fide.

Her husband was on the front row of her graduation, clapping hard.

By thirty, she tried to get pregnant. But no luck. After several failed attempts and miscarriages, doctors told her it would be…

Bossy women get a bad rap in modern society. Take Kelly. She has always been a take-charge kind of gal, but she’s often misunderstood. For example, just because she's bossy doesn’t mean she can’t be shy.

Kelly was extremely shy around Kurt. They worked at the same hardware store. She manned the cash register, he did everything else.

Her chance encounters with Kurt were the highlights of her days. Even though she usually ended up mumbling unintelligible syllables whenever she saw him.

“I just knew he was special,” she says. “I liked the way he treated people. He was just so nice, just a good guy.”

He always spoke to customers in the store as though they were the only people that mattered. He bent over backward to help those who needed assistance deciding on the right galvanized hex bolts. And, going by what Kelly says, he was also a strong candidate for the next pope installation.

“I wanted him to notice me,” she says. “But I never got much more than ‘Hi,’ out of him.”

So she let it go. Because in modern society, girls don’t ask boys out. We’ve put a man on the moon, developed breakthrough cures, and we’ve split the atom. But if a girl asks a boy on a date, she is considered bossy.

And according to Kelly, “You don’t want a guy to think you’re bossy.”

This is especially true if you happen to actually be bossy. Which Kelly is. Big time. She knows this. And she’s okay with it.

Kelly has always been naturally bossy. Even in grade school. She has always had a talent for calling the shots. And if she didn’t love her current job so much, she firmly believes that a girl like her could easily get a good gig in the mafia.

In her little church choir, for example, even though Kelly doesn’t know the first thing about music,…

Bill’s nine-year-old son was always talking about his friend Greg. And this was pretty much all Bill knew about his son’s classmate.

Until he noticed something unusual about Greg after a sleepover party. One morning, Greg offered to make everyone breakfast.

“He was nine,” says Bill. “And he cooked breakfast for us. I mean, what kind of nine-year-old knows how to make breakfast?”

This led Bill to ask his son about Greg’s home life. Bill’s son, in the tradition of all well-spoken, socially sensitive, acutely aware American nine-year-olds answered, “Can I have some new Pokémon cards, Dad?”

So Bill asked around at school, trying his best not to come off sounding like a nosy member of the KGB. He even offered Greg a ride home in hopes of learning more about the kid. But Greg declined because he said he usually rode the bus and besides, he too had a lot of important Pokémon cards to trade.

“So,” Bill says, “I staked out the kid’s house.”

Which, I want to point out, is absolutely normal for a middle-aged suburban male

like Bill to do. In terms of normalcy, conducting unauthorized surveillance on strangers’ homes is right up there with weekend basketball at the YMCA.

Bill parked across the street and watched from his minivan. There were no cars at the house, nobody was coming or going. He suspected Greg was living alone.

But as it happened, Bill—who has a long track record of this—was wrong. He learned this when he used a more direct approach. Namely, he asked Greg some questions.

“Greg,” he said, “do you live alone?”

“Nope,” Greg said.

Problem solved.

Greg explained that his father worked night shifts and slept during the daytime. And he worked three jobs.

Bill asked, “But how does your father drive to work? There are no cars at your house.”

“A van comes to get him,” said Greg.

A van? Well. It…

When I asked people to send letters to me a few weeks ago, so I could get them to Santa, I did not think that I would receive so many.

Letters came from, China, Venezuela, Alaska, and even the remote country of New Jersey. A man in Moscow sent me a fur cap with flaps, which I understand is called an уша́нка. A woman from Canada sent a harmonica. Many have sent photographs, greeting cards, business cards, and a few have even sent their income tax returns.

My desk is buried in envelopes, and I am still working on reading all the letters, I am not half way through, and more letters keep arriving. And I’ll be honest, it has been eye opening. I truly mean that.

The first thing I can honestly say I have learned after reading so many letters from so many good people is: People are alike.

No matter where they are from, no matter what someone’s age, race, or creed, I have learned that everyone genuinely wants the same basic human thing:


No, that was only a joke. What I actually learned is that everyone wants to be loved. I know this isn’t exactly new information, but if you were to read this statement over and over again, like I have, it might start to make an impression.

But enough from me. Here are a few excerpts from letters:

LAUREN, QUINCY; MASSACHUSETTS—“I want Santa to make me skinny this year. And if he won’t do it then I’ve decided I’m just going to be happy being fat.”

JULIA; WASHINGTON D.C.—“Help, I don’t know how to do calculus, Santa, and I’m barely holding onto a C, please do something.”

ZETA; ATLANTA—“Fix this weather, Santa. Hot and cold and hot and cold, I can’t figure out what to wear and it’s hard trying to dress cute.”

MYRA; HOUSTON, TEXAS—“Tell Santa that I am 24 years old,…

Sometimes I have to rack my brain about a topic for a column. But on rare occasions—call it divine intervention, the Circle of Life, or the Pythagorean Theorem—a column falls right into my lap.

Which is what is happening now. I am at a children’s choir concert with a friend. We are in a dark gymnasium, looking at a whimsical stage set crowded with small children.

The kids look like angels. Sort of. Not real angels, mind you. They are the kinds of angels who frequently shove their grubby little hands into the seats of their pants even though they are standing before an audience of three hundred spectators.

“Hands out of your pants,” the teachers keep saying.

But it’s no use.

Other children, however, spend the entire performance mumbling song lyrics halfheartedly. They are distracted because they are trying to locate their parents in the dark auditorium so they can wave to them.

Once a child has finished waving at his or her respective Mom, that child resumes digging in his or her underpants.

But one

boy in particular steals the show. I don’t know what his official role is, but in this musical production he is Bethlehem’s Nose Picker. This kid picks his nose with such sincerity that he deserves his own television show.

This kid is so far into his nostrils that his elbow joint has disappeared. Now and then he removes his upper arm from his nasal cavity whereupon he thoughtfully evaluates each booger before he eats it.

During the performance, I leave my seat to use the bathroom. In the lobby, I see an old woman and her grandson. She is scolding him. The boy drops his head.

I overhear his grandmother say, “You can’t bring Bang Snaps to a Christmas concert, Dane! What were you thinking? You’re grounded!”

“Noooo, pleeeease, Grandma,” the kid says.

Now, I know that some of you are probably wondering…