It’s a few days until Christmas, and I was going to write something else. I was going to write a story about my dog, or something about winter. But I’ve changed my mind.
That’s a writer’s prerogative. A writer changes his mind all the time.
Sometimes, for instance, he changes his mind at a restaurant, mid-salad.
But today, I wanted to tell you something important. And I’m not changing my mind about this.
I hope you have a merry Christmas.
That’s it. That’s the purpose of this column. In fact, that will probably be my final sentence when it’s all over. So, you can stop reading here if you’re pressed for time.
Still, because I have a few hundred words left, I am going stretch this out. After all, if writers didn’t expound on topics, all suspense novels would only have two pages, and go like this:
“There was a guy who turned up dead. Blah, blah, blah. It was Colonel Mustard in the parlor. The end.”
And who wants to read books like that?
So let me tell you about a kid I once knew:
There was once a kid who wanted to write. Sometimes, it seemed like he was no good at it. But that’s where you came in. You told him he could do it.
You took different forms, but you’re more or less the same person. You’re kindness. Charity. Goodness. You are every nice person that kid ever met.
You are the man in Piggly Wiggly who returned the kid’s wallet. You didn’t have to do that, but you did.
And you’re the man in Montgomery, who bought the kid and his wife a tank of gas when their credit card was declined at the pump.
You were the person who befriended the kid. You didn’t try to “help” the kid. You just let him talk.
And, you were the college professor who actually took the time to read what the kid wrote. Then, you took even more time to send a letter via the U.S. Mail which included the sentence:
“You’re a wonderful writer!!!!”
And you used FOUR exclamation marks. Four.
And you’ve been there through the years. You change shapes, and faces, but you’re there. And you make it a wonderful life.
You were the police officer who came to see the kid speak at a tiny Rotary Club meeting. There were maybe eight people in the audience. You clapped when his speech was done. Then, as if you hadn’t done enough, you took him to eat lunch at a taco truck thereafter—WITH half the police department.
The kid remembers that. In his book, it goes down as one of his top-forty greatest hits.
You were the ten-year-old-girl, who wore rags for clothes. Who had no parents, and a sad home life.
You approached the kid-writer after he gave a speech at your school, and said, “I wish you had a podcast. Because I like podcasts, they make me feel like I have friends, since nobody ever wants to be my friend.”
The writer didn’t even know what podcast was. But the very next week, with the help of a technologically inclined friend, he bought fifty-two-dollars’ worth of recording equipment from the classified section of the newspaper. And a podcast was born.
You were the homeless man who gave the kid your very own pocketknife because you said it was a good luck charm.
You were Uncle Kenny, who kept the kid supplied with beer.
You were the friend who talked the kid into writing his first book.
The man at the gas station who gave the kid a free cup of coffee even though he forgot his wallet at home.
The woman who married the kid. Who tutored him through eleven years of community college. Who got him his very first bloodhound. Who puts up with his aimlessness. Who lets this kid feel like he knows it all, even though you know he doesn’t.
You were the gentle voice that found the kid, long ago. The one who told him “You’re not worthless, son. You’re beautiful.”
Tonight, you’re probably reading this on your phone. And you really don’t know what you’ve done for me.
All the taps of your thumb, all the liking, the sharing, the emailing, the listening on your car stereo. Don’t you get it?
You’ve altered the course of a kid’s life. It was you who gave me the greatest blessing I ever had.
So I know I told you my last line would be: “I hope you have a merry Christmas.”
But I changed my mind. And that’s a writer’s prerogative.
Here’s my new last line:
May God bless us, every one.