Last December, I went Christmas caroling. In my community, there is an activity group that sings carols and brings holiday cookies to neighbors who are housebound or experiencing some sort of crisis during the festive season. I’ve wanted to join the group since the very first year we moved to Florida, but something got in the way every year. Last year, I finally donned my bedazzled holiday t-shirt and fa-la-la-la-la-ed with the best of them.
The Christmas caroling was a hoot (random owl reference alert- please tune in next week for an explanation of why I have owls on the brain.)
We had about 30 houses on our list of people to serenade. The mission required more tactical coordination than simply gathering and walking door-to-door. To make sure we covered the entire development and visited all our planned neighbors some time before the break of dawn, we divided into three separate groups of eight golf carts. Yes, golf carts. Decorated golf carts. If Santa Claus lived in central Florida and not at the North Pole, he would have 86ed that sleigh years ago and repurposed a golf cart into a holly-jolly jalopy. We had golf carts festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells and Christmas tree lights. Heck, it wasn’t just the golf carts… WE were festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells, and Christmas tree lights. When our golf cart parades set off on their assigned routes, it was quite the holiday spectacle. I think we might end up on one of those television shows on the Discovery Channel about strange and unusual Christmas traditions around the world. You know… Christmas gone wild in the rare and exotic central Florida senior citizen culture.
Not only were we a sight for sore eyes, we were a sound for sore ears. Contributing to the general wackiness of our traveling Christmas concert was the fact that there was no requirement that the singers actually be able to… well…. sing. Let me point out that I tried out for the fourth-grade glee club and was rejected. How bad does a kid have to suck to be banned from the fourth-grade glee club? The experience scarred me for life. I consider it to be one of God’s biggest jokes that I love to sing but have a voice that apparently scares young children… or at least the teachers of young children. I continue to taunt the Jonas E. Salk Elementary School Glee Club by going through life singing whenever I darn well please. I make a joyful noise unto the Lord on a regular basis, but I never have any delusions that I am actually any good at it. The holiday carolers embraced me and my crummy voice into their fold. I am sure I was not the only one in our merry band of carolers who brought joy and enthusiasm to the experience, if not an abundance of musical talent.
As it turned out, our outrageous spectacle and our less-than-fourth-grade-glee-club-worthy vocal ability made no difference at all. We had fun and, more importantly, the people we visited had fun as well. We were pretty good at stirring up the ho-ho-holiday spirit. When we deposited our cookies and finished our caroling, I felt like everybody’s hearts were a little more merry and bright than when we started.
Now, this is a pretty inexpensive activity. It doesn’t require a lot of money to pull off an evening of Christmas caroling. For the price of some cookies, some platters and cellophane, and forty photocopies of the words to a few a Christmas carols, we can make a little Christmas miracle. Sweet volunteers provide cookies, but there is still a small amount of expense for the accoutrements.
Which brings us to the pancakes.
In our community, there is a big pancake breakfast once a month. A group of volunteers does a terrific job of organizing the breakfasts. They prepare food and coordinate supplies. They sell tickets. They have a wonderfully orchestrated master plan for presenting the event, which usually draws 70-120 hungry breakfasters each month. The breakfast group solicits other activity groups in the community to help throughout the year. The group that assists on a given month makes some money to supplement their activity. The assisting group also gets the opportunity to introduce the larger community to their mission and projects. The volunteers from the activity group of the month act as servers and help with setting up the auditorium and cleaning up after the event. Last month, it was our turn to help. We crazy Christmas carolers hauled out the holiday t-shirts and prepared to get our pancake on.
I have never been a waitress in my life. It wasn’t a career I thought I would start in my fifties. Still, I was game. After all, if my lack of singing skill did not disqualify me from being a caroler, surely my lack of waitressing skill wouldn’t disqualify me from helping to serve breakfast to 100 hungry people.
Little did I know. In actuality, the breakfast group lady in charge of us temporary volunteers had her eyes on me. As I mentioned, the breakfast club folks have a tried- and-true, finely-oiled master plan for producing this event. That plan has a lot of rules and contingencies and fine points. I have no doubt it works very well and I tried very hard to follow it, but I still kept making errors. Luckily, the breakfast group lady was there to correct me. Often. In fact, I think I did more things wrong in the two hours I was there than I have in the past two weeks put together.
At first, I felt kind of bad about myself and my serving incompetence. Then, I realized something. Just like singing badly during Christmas caroling, making mistakes in the serving procedure made no difference. The people I served were happy and content. They were having fun. We were laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I even tried using my high school Spanish to communicate…badly… with a couple who just moved to the community from Peru. This motivated another gentleman at the table to start speaking in Hawaiian pidgin English to see what I would do.
At the end of the breakfast, we caroling servers thanked everyone and concluded the event with a Christmas carol. I tell you, there is nothing like a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells to get you in the holiday spirit. In March. Oh well, only eight more months till Christmas!
In the meantime, Marchy Christmas to all and to all a Good Spring!
Have you ever celebrated Christmas when it wasn’t Christmas? Tell us about it! Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, have a very merry in-Christmas!