I love and cherish the unmistakable way the hustle and bustle of our lives seems to slow down about noon on Christmas Eve as Americans settle in to enjoy their families and attend night church services. It is so precious and special. So as we sit before the fire in anticipation of the joy that tomorrow holds, allow me to share some of my “Eleventh Hour” wishes:
I WISH that all the grace and hope that accompany the celebration of Christ’s birth will settle like a warm blanket over the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and that the memories of those who were heroes and victims of a mentally-ill killer will one day outlast the carnage that caused an entire nation of mourners to draw their loved ones closer.
I WISH you didn’t have to be old and wrinkled to fully understand what LSU football coach Les Miles told his players the other day: “I don’t know that there’s any gift that I received that I remember that would take the place of the additions to my family and seeing their faces when they open presents. I think all that stuff that happens to us when we’re growing up just seems to fail to compare to watching somebody who still believes in Santa Claus open a gift and go, ‘Dad, look!’ I don’t know if there’s a gift that can equal that!” (Incidentally, Miles made his squad sing “mandatory” Christmas carols together before letting the Tigers go home for a short holiday before the Chik-fil-A Bowl.)
I WISH that Chattanooga’s outgoing mayor, Ron Littlefield, will never forget that in his two terms as the city’s leader, he always did what he thought was best, whether it ended right or wrong. Those brave enough to be public servants are to always be cherished.
I WISH that Derek Dooley will one day coach young people again. Just because things didn’t work out at Tennessee should in no way diminish his life’s desire to coach and better young people. Let’s never forget his talk at Orange Grove Center this year was magical.
I WISH that soon people will come along to fill the shoes of people like Krystal baron Rody Davenport, Rossville leader Bob McCoy, and educator Nat Hughes and that their vision and that of other civic leaders who died this year will never become blurred.
I WISH that more people would realize that when UT-Chattanooga golfer Steven Fox won this year’s U.S. Amateur, it became the greatest athletic achievement by an individual from Chattanooga that I can ever recall.
I WISH that General Motors, as the auto giant buys back its stock for the U.S. government – and the people of the United States – would have the integrity to match the bailout payback dollar-for-dollar rather than to dodge its moral obligation, leaving “us” with billions in losses. It should also be remembered Chrysler’s bankruptcy option left the nation with $1.3 billion less than it should have been repaid.
I WISH all those who rushed to buy lottery tickets this year could know they have a much better chance betting on whether Prince William and Kate Middleton’s unborn child will grow up to be a pro soccer player. In Britain the odds are now posted at 1,000-to-one.
I WISH that I was as smart as Rick Warren, the pastor of the Saddleback Church in California who offered this advice on how we should respond to grief: “The deeper the grief, the fewer words are needed. A lot of folks are looking for wisdom, or the right word, and are asking 'what do you say?' – but there is nothing to say. You just need to be there. You need to show up. And when people are grieving, they don't need a lecture, and they don't need an explanation. Explanations don't comfort us. Just be there."
I WISH that every elementary-school child had access to a computer, that no child would be advanced a grade until they could read on that level, and that every one of them had a warm coat. If you need to make a year-end donation, earmark it and send it to your county’s public school system.
I WISH that every person who believes some high school records will never be broken could see YouTube tapes of Derrick Henry, the running back from Yulee, Fla., who – in high school alone – ran for 12,121 total yards to become the nation’s all-time leader. Derrick, who scored 55 touchdowns in his senior year alone, says he will soon sign a scholarship with Alabama.
I WISH that all the people who are determined to have “the best Christmas ever” would pause to reflect on the fact that only happened once with the very first one – every year since we have simply celebrated the glorious anniversary.
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Finally, it is my habit on Christmas Eve – just before I go to bed – that I read a short essay taken from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis given in Philadelphia in 1926. Of all I have ever read on Christmas, this is my very favorite, so …
I WISH that you might share this with some person that you love before tomorrow’s dawn:
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ONE SOLITARY LIFE
“He was a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
“He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...
“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
“Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
“I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.”
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