VIEW FROM THE HILL

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
It is now Christmas. Have you finished shopping yet? No? Welcome to the club.

In this club, you have a right-correction, the motive-to remain silent. Anything you say definitely will be used against you.

In addition, at this late hour, anything you don’t say also will be used against you and the verdict promptly rendered.

For inspiration to go forth and shop, I visited the local Alco store. While there, I was not alone. The store was overrun by last-minute shoppers.

OK, it was not last minute, but the clock is winding down. By the time you settle down for a long winter’s review of this week’s issue of the Free Press, the final minutes will be ticking away.

As I was saying-for inspiration, I decided to buy something for myself. Leave it to Bart Simpson to catch my attention in times like these. I found a poster that showed Bart at the chalkboard writing such things as, “A burp is not an answer” and “I will not fake my way through life.” His stance and expression was the usual look when things go bad.

A Simpson poster may not be anybody’s idea of a perfect gift, not even for yours truly. But there is something about Bart and his juvenile behavior that has the potential to strike an odd cord now and then. Perhaps it’s because, as adults, we take ourselves too seriously and need to lighten up once in a while.

Anyway, bolstered by my questionable yet bold approach to shopping, the search for another “gift” continued. I remembered I needed a few items from the sporting-goods section. In less than a half hour, my mission was completed.

Any doubts one may have of my ability to forage in the land of “misfit toys” may be put to rest. The only problem is I must repeat this behavior for each member of the family.

Be still my heart. Fear raises its ugly head once again. I hear something. It starts in low and begins to grow. There it is once again!

“Oh, honey! It’s what I always wanted!”

I’ll bet it was the last thing she wanted.

Fear of the unknown makes me do strange things, like talking to myself. Do you remember the last great gift idea? You know, that thing-a-ma-bob that curls or swirls stuff. Oh, yeah! I saw it in the box in the storage room, on the floor, underneath the box of memorabilia from my college days.

This does not look good.

This year’s gift will change things around for sure. A little voice in my head thinks otherwise. What’s that I hear again?

“Oh, honey! You shouldn’t have-really, you shouldn’t have.”

You’re right. I shouldn’t have. Really.

It is a good thing I run through this in my mind before jumping in with both feet.

I have a better idea. Let’s jump forward in time to the day after Christmas. Let all the people return their unwanted care packages and exchange the goods for cash or some other item equally dubious as my Bart Simpson poster.

Finally, we’re all “grateful” for the gifts we received. We can pretend, once again, all is well in Who-ville.

Now that we have satisfied the urge to splurge, let’s go back to the present, continue toward the big day and enjoy each other’s company.

The best Christmas gifts I have ever received are the simplest of gifts. They are wrapped with loving care. They come in a variety of colors and flavors. Compared to items found in stores, they are priceless.

I need not exchange them for other, exotic gifts. Nothing in the world is as desirable or as valuable. They are irreplaceable if lost or destroyed. They are my family and close friends.

I know other people value gifts like these, just as much as I do.

Last Sunday, a group of carolers from our church visited the homes of various families. I could tell the residents enjoyed the brief, yet meaningful fellowship as we sang Christmas carols.

As they sang with us, for a moment, all hindrances let go as their spirits rose above the present time.

We were one in the Lord and at peace with one another. We sang as though we were never alone. The gift of love was evident on our faces. God’s Spirit was among us.

No material gift can work a miracle like this. No material gift can be given and received with joy, and then given back to the giver.

May all who live, approach this season with great anticipation and find peace and happiness in the Lord, who is the Giver of all good gifts.

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