Breaking the Rules on Christmas Eve

Breaking the Rules on Christmas EveIn my family, Christmas Eve brings with it the now infamous Sauerkraut Soup, creamed peas, and fried pork chops. The entire house smells thick with these traditional foods, and while earlier I’d planned to wait until some of the aroma cleared out in order to get ready for the day, I have since decided that it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve if I didn’t smell like fried pork chops.

Two years ago, in fact, I remember stopping at my Grandma’s house to drop off the chops and soup so she had them ready for the family to stop in and eat in shifts around church services and in-law schedules, and I spilled some of the soup down the front of me in the process. When I got to church and sat down next to my sister, she said, “What’s that smell?”

“Ah, that would be me,” I whispered. “It’s meat juice. Let’s hope no one is out walking a dog after the service tonight.” We laughed about that.

But in all the gettings-ready and gift wrapping and cooking and dress-ironing (which I don’t do) and food delivery and cleaning and place-setting and traveling, so much comes together for this night that we’ve long since given up on trying to make a perfect holiday, following order and rules and such, and instead enjoy whatever the day brings, sometimes with unplanned spillings and sometimes with surprise visits from favorite cousins.

And in it all, I’m reminded of the original Christmas, with the prospect of mandatory and dangerous travel just to register to pay taxes, and the delivery of a baby in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. [Earlier I wrote the travel was to Jerusalem, because I truly have Jerusalem on the brain these days. But no, Mary and Joseph were, of course, traveling to Bethlehem.] I think of the Magi, who followed the star, sent by King Herod himself. And when they found said baby under the star, they gave gifts befitting a king. And I think of how the Magi left by a different route, not returning to King Herod because they were warned in a dream that the King only intended to kill the baby.

I think of this especially, because, even a couple thousand years ago, wise men broke the rules and followed their dreams.

And the world was forever changed.

Merry Christmas Eve!

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Everyday Heroes

My friends told me this story last weekend: They were leaving work late at night, and heading to their cars in the parking ramp. One friend decided to take the elevator up to the second floor while the other took the stairs. The elevator arrived first. Though, blocking the door to the garage was a man who had passed out on the floor.

My friend, let’s call him Felix, motions to his shy friend, we’ll call her Ella, to stay put at the top of the stairs. Felix taps the sleeping man on the shoulder. The man slowly rouses. He’s alright, just intoxicated. It takes a few minutes, but the sleepy man, Popeye, sharpens up pretty fast. He’s not hurt; he has his wallet. While Felix talks to Popeye to make sure he’s coherent, Ella grabs her phone to call a cab, all the while muttering, “Where are his friends? Who left him on his own like this?”

Felix and Ella escort Popeye back to the street level and then proceed to get into a shouting match with other revelers on the street who try to steal their cab. Our normally shy Ella wins the match and the cab. Popeye has money, knows where he lives, and gets into the cab. Felix and Ella go on their way, hoping they did the right thing.

The next day, Felix and Ella discuss their hope that Popeye’s alright. Felix tells Ella he hopes they get some good karma for their kindness in helping Popeye. Ella, a blog fan of my Recompense Series, tells him, “We were kind for the sake of being kind.”

DSC00699A similar story—this one’s Biblical. It is told: A man is robbed and beat up by vandals on the road outside Jerusalem, and is left to die. (These stories don’t mess around.) The left-for-dead man is Jewish. A Levite comes along—a Jewish man from the Levi tribe, men called by God to be the keepers of the temples and sacred artifacts and the only ones called to handle the Ark of the Covenant. He sees Left-for-Dead, but crosses to the other side of the road and goes on his way. (Incidentally, Left-for-Dead was noted as a traveler. As you know, our English word travel comes from Old French: travail, meaning to labor, toil, and even older: to trouble or torment. Traveling was not for the faint of heart.) Back to our story: A priest comes along, too, but also refuses to help. Then suddenly a man from the Roman-held Samaria shows up. Samaritans and Jews were rival enemies, worse than Packers and Vikings fans, Steelers and Cowboys fans in the ‘70s, current day Steelers and Browns and Ravens fans—oh, I could go on. The Samaritan picks up the Jewish man, gets him to the nearest roadside “hotel,” arranges for food and help, and pays for the Jewish man’s stay. The Samaritan then continues on his way, and returns from his business a little while later to check on the Jewish man.

This is how we come to call our helpers Good Samaritans. At the time of our second story, Samaritans were not considered to be “good,” quite the opposite, in fact. The very idea of a Good Samaritan has its origin in this story.

Simply put: We have no idea the consequences of our actions.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Little Gems

Most people are downright fascinating. Their speech patterns and mannerisms, especially when discussing things they’re passionate about, make for great study. This is precisely why some writers love to sit in cafés, bars, and restaurants as quiet observers with a notebook and pencil in hand.   photo-4

Good dialogue is the way people actually talk, not the way books tell you we talk. Listen to the word choice, the cadence, the changing tones, and hesitations. Watch for body movements, quirky ticks, and facial expressions. When you least expect it, someone will say something absolutely amazing, and these quotes can pave the way for great ideas to flow. Some gems I collected over the years:

“I’m not a safe person to know if you crave mental health.”
–K.B., said with a large spoon in one hand and a giant bowl of popcorn in the other

“Sometimes you have to call bullshit for what it is: Bullshit.”
–S.B., after a long day at work

“A nice, soothing game of checkers turned into a wild game of hockey as the night neared its end.”
–S.T.E, in college

“Prepare yourselves.”
–H., in Jerusalem

“Not bad for Armitrons.”
–total stranger

So grab your notebook and head to the nearest clean, well-lighted place. There’s work to be done!

~

As always, UDK is on Amazon.