Have you ever seen an extra-large woman, about 6 feet and two inches tall, in a skin-tight, lime green leotard, at least two sizes too small, jumping up and down without her feet ever leaving the ground…in public?
Neither had Hooter until he made the mistake of dropping by a mall in Dallas to kill time waiting for a long-time pal and mechanical genius to manufacture a new gear for his ancient baler.
That's why he was staring, the way you can't keep yourself from doing when someone trips on level ground or walks square into a closed door.
That's why the zeppelin in tights had the temerity to glare at Hooter and growl, “What are you looking at gramps?”
“The circus, I reckon,” replied Hooter.
“I…Ohhhh…” Just like that she had a whistle in her mouth and was blowing it as if the walls falling at Jericho depended on her.
Almost as quick, the security guard showed up. “What is it this time, Hilda?” he asked in a weary voice.
“This man is stalking me with his eyes and verbally assaulting me,” shrieked the woman, pointing to a flummoxed Hooter.
“Stalking? A blind man could find you in a section of pasture on the first try.”
Ignoring Hooter, Hilda turned to the guard. “I was minding my own business, just doing my job.”
“Like the other times,” said the guard.
“Exactly. Which is not easy to do with these geezers leering at me.”
Hooter didn't know whether to laugh or get mad. “What is it you're doing exactly?”
“As if you didn't know,” accused Hilda, picking up a yellow sign: ‘Sale Today!' “I'm a holiday elf, obviously.”
“An elf!” Hooter couldn't help himself, he broke in two laughing.
“See, see,” shouted Hilda at the guard, pointing to Hooter, who was doubled over in glee.
“Well, there's your problem right there,” said Hooter after pulling himself together. “That sign is way too small for your billboard, besides which, who could see it with all that gravity going on?” He leaned over to the guard: “That suit thingy is obviously made in America for those seams to hold; can you imagine the PSI?”
The guard was trying to stifle a smile, when Edith Wormlow, assistant mall manager showed up, fake smile, stiff hair and all.
“There certainly seems to be an exuberant exchange of ideas going on here,” said Edith brightly. “At least it is based on the reports I've been receiving. Officer Jones, is everything under control?”
Hooter noticed the guard flinch when Edith emphasized the officer part.
“Like I've said before Mrs. Wormlow, I'm not an officer, per se. I'm a security guard. And, yes, we're working it out.”
Edith winced. “Ms., Ms., not Mrs. And you may be an unemployed security guard if you're not careful. Let's continue this in my office, shall we?” Her smile never left.
Hooter was ready to tell Ms. Wormlow what she could do with her overweight stop sign and all the rest when he saw the pleading eyes of the security guard.
“Let's!” said Hooter with a broad grin.
All I Want for Christmas…
Officer Jones quickly outlined the situation for Ms. Wormlow, emphasizing the repeat nature of Hilda's complaints since she'd gone to work at the mall a few weeks earlier.
“It sounds to me like we have a simple misunderstanding,” said Wormlow. “Mr. McCormick, I'm guessing a sincere apology from you would be acceptable to our employee.” Hilda nodded, basking in the attention.
“I'd gladly apologize if I'd done anything that required one,” said Hooter calmly. “In this case, you folks are the ones who need to do the apologizing.”
The smile finally left Wormlow's thin lips, if only for an instant. “I'm afraid I don't understand, Mr. McCormick.”
“Indecent exposure, for one,” said Hooter, pointing at Hilda. “Your jolly green giant there, down to her almost all together, ain't exactly kiddy fare. Lord, she could scare the giblets out of a live bird.”
“Mr. McCormick…” tried Wormlow.
“False advertising and harassment for another two,” continued Hooter. “The harassment is obvious. As for advertising, big Christmas signs outside the mall say, ‘Welcome to All.' I don't feel so welcome.”
“First of all, those aren't Christmas signs. In the name of sensitivity and inclusivity we call this our holiday season, not our Christmas season.”
“Which is also false advertising,” interjected Hooter.
“Second of all, the design of the elf costume has been approved by our board of directors, so I believe you'd have a hard time convincing…”
“On the right frame, I'll bet the costume's fine,” said Hooter. “Ya'all keep missing the forest, though. Mrs. Wormlow, you probably had to hire thin-skin Lizzie here, though it made no sense for the job and costume at hand, because of discrimination laws. And, Hildy, you sought the job for reasons known only to you. But, how dare you do everything you can to draw attention to yourself and then complain about it. I can't believe I'm having this conversation with folks who are supposed to be grown-ups.”
“Mr. McCormick, you obviously aren't from around here, you see…”
“That's the only intelligent observation you've made,” said Hooter, rising from his chair. “Like the song says, I ain't from Dallas; I'm from Texas. Merry Christmas.”
Hooter continued wishing a Merry Christmas to anyone within earshot, all the way to the parking lot. Incidentally, nobody said Happy Holiday in return; everybody gutted it up and told the truth: Merry Christmas.
Sharing the Reason
Safe back at home the next day, Hooter was thinking of his Dallas adventure, when Bugsy's cousin, Joey found him out at the shop.
“I've got a question, Uncle Hooter.”
“Shoot,” came the muffled reply from beneath the baler.
“Well, I'm having a hard time understanding this whole Jesus and Santa Clause thing.”
Hooter scooted out from under the baler so he could look Joey in the eye. “How, so, pard?”
“Well, I know Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus.”
“But Santa Clause brings us presents.”
“Well, if Christmas is all about Jesus, how come he's not the one that brings the presents?”
Hooter took a long draw of cold coffee.
“Look at it like this. Suppose you'd already received the biggest and best present than anyone had ever received, and you wanted to thank the one who gave it to you, but they weren't there in the flesh to thank. What would you do?”
Joey thought hard. “I suppose I'd try to share what that person gave me with some of my friends, thinking that might make the person happy, who gave it to me.”
“Bingo,” said Hooter. “You're already three laps ahead of most adults.”
“But I'd still keep trying to find that person to thank,” said Joey.
“Bingo again. That's why we have Santa Clause.”
“Who gives us life, Joey?”
“God, Jesus, is what I learned in Sunday School. But I don't know exactly what that means.”
“It means none of us would be here if it wasn't for God. It also means none of us would have eternal life if it wasn't for Jesus. So, we already know who to thank for a gift that's too big to really even imagine.”
“Then why do we thank Santa Clause?”
“Because he's sharing with us. It's like Santa Clause symbolizes all of this thankfulness we have on this earth. We can't give God anything because he already has everything, except for our love, which is up to us to give. And, one of the ways we show Him our love is by loving others and being kind to them.”
Joey's young forehead creased up. “So, Santa Clause is just really thankful and gives all that stuff away?”
“That's one way of looking at it,” said Hooter. He was concentrating as hard as Joey was. “Do you give you mama and daddy a Christmas present?”
“Because I love them.”
“But they already know that.”
“Yeah, but I want to show them.”
“There you go. We trade gifts on Jesus' birthday, and Santa Clause delivers presents because Jesus already gave us the greatest gift of all, His unconditional Love and eternal life. Plus, on this earth, he gives us exactly what we need, whether we know it or not. Kind of beats a belly-dancing Elmo, doesn't it?”
“But that's what He gives us…”
“And, we're so grateful about it, that even though we know that He knows that we love him, we want to share our gratefulness and love with those around us, in His name. We do it with our love for others and with our kindness. And sometimes, we express that love and kindness with really cool presents. Does that make sense?”
“Ummm, I guess so,” said Joey, unconvincingly. “But, how come we write letters to Santa Clause instead of to Jesus?”
“We do send letters to Jesus, Joey; of a sort and all of the time. They're called prayers.”