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September 3rd, 2008

Story : Why Daddies Dont Cry Often?

Daddy cries on christmas eve

Why daddies dont cry often?

One afternoon about a week before Christmas, my family of four piled into our minivan to run an errand, and this question came from a small voice in the back seat: “Dad,” began my five-year-old son, Patrick, “how come I’ve never seen you cry?”

Just like that. No preamble. No warning. Surprised, I mumbled something about crying when he wasn’t around, but I knew that Patrick had put his young finger on the largest obstacle to my own peace and contentment — the dragon-filled moat separating me from the fullest human expression of joy, sadness and anger. Simply put, I could not cry.

I am scarcely the only man for whom this is true. We men have been conditioned to believe that stoicism is the embodiment of strength. We have traveled through life with stiff upper lips, secretly dying within.

For most of my adult life I have battled depression. Doctors have said much of my problem is physiological, and they have treated it with medication. But I know that my illness is also attributable to years of swallowing rage, sadness, even joy.

Strange as it seems, in this world where macho is everything, drunkenness and depression are safer ways for men to deal with feelings than tears. I could only hope the same debilitating handicap would not be passed to the next generation.

So the following day when Patrick and I were in the van after playing at a park, I thanked him for his curiosity. Tears are a good thing, I told him, for boys and girls alike. Crying is God’s way of healing people when they’re sad. “I’m glad you can cry whenever you’re sad,” I said. “Sometimes daddies have a harder time showing how they feel. Someday I hope to do better.”

Patrick nodded. In truth, I held out little hope. But in the days before Christmas I prayed that somehow I could connect with the dusty core of my own emotions.

“I was wondering if Patrick would sing a verse of ‘Away in a Manger’ during the service on Christmas Eve,” the church youth director asked in a message left on our answering machine.

My wife, Catherine, and I struggled to contain our excitement. Our son’s first solo.

Catherine delicately broached the possibility, reminding Patrick how beautifully he sang, telling him how much fun it would be. Patrick himself seemed less convinced and frowned. “You know, Mom,” he said, “sometimes when I have to do something important, I get kind of scared.”

Grownups feel that way too, he was assured, but the decision was left to him. His deliberations took only a few minutes.

“Okay,” Patrick said. “I’ll do it.”

From the time he was an infant, Patrick has enjoyed an unusual passion for music. By age four he could pound out several bars of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on the piano.

For the next week Patrick practiced his stanza several times with his mother. A rehersal at the church went well. Still, I could only envision myself at age five, singing into a microphone before hundreds of people. When Christmas Eve arrived, my expectations were limited.

Catherine, our daughter Melanie and I sat with the congregation in darkness as a spotlight found my son, standing alone at the microphone. He was dressed in white, with a pair of angel wings.

Slowly, confidently, Patrick hit every note. As his voice washed over the people, he seemed a true angel, a true bestower of Christmas miracles.

There was eternity in Patrick’s voice that night, a beauty rich enough to penetrate any reserve. At the sound of my son, heavy tears welled at the corners of my eyes.

His song was soon over, and the congregation applauded. Catherine brushed away tears. Melanie sobbed next to me.

After the service, I moved to congratulate Patrick, but he had more urgent priorities. “Mom,” he said as his costume was stripped away, “I have to go to the bathroom.”

As Patrick disappeared, the pastor wished me a Merry Christmas, but emotion choked off my reply. Outside the sanctuary I received congratulations from fellow church members.

I found my son as he emerged from the bathroom. “Patrick, I need to talk to you about something,” I said, smiling. I took him by the hand and led him into a room where we could be alone. I knelt to his height and admired his young face, the large blue eyes, the dusting of freckles on his nose and cheeks, the dimple on one side.

He looked at my moist eyes quizzically.

“Patrick, do you remember when you asked me why you had never seen me cry?”

He nodded.

“Well, I’m crying now.”

“Why, Dad?”

“Your singing was so wonderful it made me cry.”

Patrick smiled proudly and flew into my arms.

“Sometimes,” my son said into my shoulder, “life is so beautiful you have to cry.”

Our moment together was over too soon. Untold treasures awaited our five-year-old beneath the tree at home, but I wasn’t ready for the traditional plunge into Christmas just yet. I handed Catherine the keys and set off for the mile-long hike home.

The night was cold and crisp. I crossed a park and admired the full moon hanging low over a neighborhood brightly lit in the colors of the season. As I turned toward home, I met a car moving slowly down the street, a family taking in the area’s Christmas lights. Someone rolled down a window.

“Merry Christmas,” a child’s voice yelled out to me.

“Merry Christmas,” I yelled back. And the tears began to flow all over again.

Also read the story : Why should I celebrate Christmas?

September 3rd, 2008

Story : Bobby’s Dime – Best Christmas Gift

Dozen red roses

Bobby’s Dime – Best Christmas gift

Bobby was getting cold sitting out in his back yard in the snow. Bobby didn’t wear boots; he didn’t like them and anyway he didn’t own any. The thin sneakers he wore had a few holes in them and they did a poor job of keeping out the cold.

Bobby had been in his backyard for about an hour already. And, try as he might, he could not come up with an idea for his mother’s Christmas gift. He shook his head as he thought, “This is useless, even if I do come up with an idea, I don’t have any money to spend.”

Ever since his father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. It wasn’t because his mother didn’t care, or try, there just never seemed to be enough. She worked nights at the hospital, but the small wage that she was earning could only be stretched so far.

What the family lacked in money and material things, they more than made up for in love and family unity. Bobby had two older and one younger sister, who ran the household in their mother’s absence.

All three of his sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother. Some how it just wasn’t fair. Here it was Christmas Eve already, and he had nothing.

Wiping a tear from his eye, Bobby kicked the snow and started to walk down to the street where the shops and stores were. It wasn’t easy being six without a father, especially when he needed a man to talk to.

Bobby walked from shop to shop, looking into each decorated window. Everything seemed so beautiful and so out of reach. It was starting to get dark and Bobby reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun’s rays reflecting off of something along the curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime.

Never before has anyone felt so wealthy as Bobby felt at that moment. As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when salesperson after salesperson told him that he could not buy anything with only a dime.

He saw a flower shop and went inside to wait in line. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother’s Christmas gift. The shop owner looked at Bobby and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby’s shoulder and said to him, “You just wait here and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

As Bobby waited, he looked at the beautiful flowers and even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers.

The sound of the door closing as the last customer left, jolted Bobby back to reality. All alone in the shop, Bobby began to feel alone and afraid.

Suddenly the shop owner came out and moved to the counter. There, before Bobby’s eyes, lay twelve long stem, red roses, with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. Bobby’s heart sank as the owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box.

“That will be ten cents young man.” the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime. Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this be true? No one else would give him a thing for his dime! Sensing the boy’s reluctance, the shop owner added, “I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?”

This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, “Merry Christmas, son.”

As he returned inside, the shop keeper’s wife walked out. “Who were you talking to back there and where are the roses you were fixing?”

Staring out the window, and blinking the tears from his own eyes, he replied, “A strange thing happened to me this morning. While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn’t sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway. Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with one small dime.

When I looked at him, I saw myself, many years ago. I too was a poor boy with nothing to buy my mother a Christmas gift. A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars. When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew who that voice was, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses.”

The shop owner and his wife hugged each other tightly, and as they stepped out into the bitter cold air, they somehow didn’t feel cold at all.

Also read the story : Christmas is for Love 

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