By Ed Thompson
In my heart, I am a hopeless romantic. My favorite movie? Casablanca. Ilsa Lund is the most beautiful woman God ever put on this planet, and Rick, who says he’s no good at being noble, does the noble thing and lets her walk off into the fog. My favorite baseball team? The Chicago Cubs. 1908. Need I say more? My favorite Christmas carol? Stille Nacht, performed by Manheim Steamroller, a perfect marriage of piano and violin finishing with sleigh bells and a child’s piano. Brings me to tears every time I hear it.
What makes me a hopeless romantic? I’d like to think that romance is born from a sense of optimism. I always hope Ilsa and Rick might reunite after she divorces Victor Laslo because he was too devoted to his causes to be a good husband. Every February, when the pitchers and catchers report to spring training, I truly believe that this year is finally the year the Cubbies will reverse the curse. And every Christmas, I look forward to the future because of the remarkable promise of a child born in an animal pen two thousand years ago.
Though church going, I am no religious man. I’m more spiritually inclined than religious. I have my beliefs and I’m willing to share them. Though not from any desire to convert. I only hope to provide insight into what comforts or motivates me.
The plain truth is, I believe in miracles. Not only do I believe in them. I rely upon them. Miracles guide me and encourage me. They provide me with the evidence I need that there’s something bigger than me. There are many miracles about, if I just look for them. I’m not talking about the flashy forty-days-and-forty-nights kinds of miracles or even the 1969 Mets. I’m talking about the run-of-the-mill, ordinary, every day miracles that sometimes go unnoticed because I’m otherwise engaged.
I believe there is something quite miraculous about the birth of a human child. The pain, the excitement, the fear, and the gratitude which is felt upon the successful delivery of one’s own child is beyond feeble words for any man or woman to successfully or completely describe or portray. I have wept with joy at the successful birth of each of my children, and I weep with equal sadness when I hear of the loss of even a single child or mother. For even with today’s medical knowledge and technology, childbirth is still a dangerous enterprise. Yet we look forward to it with zeal and eagerness. That is why it is miraculous.
I believe there is something sublimely miraculous in random acts of human kindness. During my morning commute, I take an exit off the westbound freeway, which merges with another exit from the southbound freeway. The southbound exit has a stop sign before they can join with the westbound exit. Yet, one morning, when the traffic was a little backed up, a west bounder paused to wave a south bounder through. Then the west bounder went, followed by a south bounder, a west bounder, and so on and so on, alternating one after another until the traffic let up and resumed to its normal pattern of south bounders yielding to west bounders. Maybe it’s Omaha. Maybe it’s the Midwest. But I would like to think that something like this might occasionally occur in Newark, Tampa, or even L.A.
I also believe there is something miraculous in second chances. After a pattern of behavior develops that causes an employer to let an employee go, it doesn’t take long for the news to spread as to why that employee is on the beach. Leopards, after all, have unchangeable spots. But somehow, something about that employee catches another employer’s eye. Something special enough for him to take the great risk in the hopes that maybe, just maybe that employee might turn things around and make a good go of it. And sometimes, the leopard’s spots change to a tiger’s stripes. Not quite water into wine, yet no less miraculous.
In a small way, that’s precisely the point of Christmas, a second chance for every one. No one is beyond redemption, you, me, AE’s. Even Ebenezer Scrooge was given his shot and he realized that the shadows of things to come can and must be changed by an altered life. Maybe I can follow the example of others and do what I can to change things about myself that make life a little better for someone else. Clean up the dinner dishes. Let the south bounder through before I take my turn. Write the script and produce the commercial without criticizing the AE. It’s possible.
So instead of waiting for a miracle, maybe I can make a miracle. And isn’t that the real miracle after all?
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
Post Script: Somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan there is a soldier who is wishing he were anywhere but there for Christmas. Yet he is willing to be there if only to make sure that I don’t have to worry about terrorists blowing up a car bomb in front of my daughter’s pre-school. You want a miracle? To me, that is a miracle and I am grateful for it.