ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

SAYING THANKS FOR THINGS WE DON’T HAVE

It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas music. I love it, from the first fa-la-la-la-la to the last pah-rum-pum-pum-pum. It’s just that I happen to think that Christmas music should be reserved for the Christmas season, while my family is ready to break out the holiday music collection soon after we put away the John Philips Sousa tapes on the 5th of July.

Through the years we’ve worked out a compromise: I won’t complain about hearing Christmas music 24 hours a day – including (shudder!) the "Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Album" – if they will hold off playing it until Thanksgiving. As a result, Thanksgiving at our house is notable as much for its sounds as it is for those delicious tastes and smells.

Which isn’t a problem. Like I said, I love Christmas music. There is no better way to awaken Thanksgiving morning than to the soothing voice of Nat King Cole singing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," with a little pot-and-pan accompaniment from my wife Anita in the kitchen.

"That sounds nice," I said after padding my way downstairs to join her last Thanksgiving. I started to sing along – "Oh, tidings of comfort and . . ." – but a quick glance from Anita told me I was treading on sacred ground, and that I should walk – and sing – softly. VERY softly.

"I’d give anything to be able to sing like that," I said, appreciatively.

Anita didn’t miss a beat. "You wouldn’t appreciate it if you could," she said.

The remark stung a little. I may not know my forte from my pianissimo, but I am not totally without aesthetic insight. I played the tuba, for Pete’s sake.

"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked.

"Nothing," she said, her concentration focused on the turkey she was stuffing. "It’s just that if you could sing like Nat King Cole, you wouldn’t enjoy hearing him sing."

I still wasn’t exactly sure where she was headed with this, and she knew it. She put her spoon down and considered her words.

"I heard a story about a man who lived on the rim of a great valley," she said. "Every evening he looked across the valley to the homes on the other side and admired the beautiful golden windows that seemed to sparkle in every home. He thought about how wonderful it would be to have such windows, and he resolved go there someday to get some for his home.

"Finally he worked up the courage to make the trip," she continued. "It was just about sunset when he arrived on the far rim and began examining the windows. He was disappointed to see that their panes were made of glass – just like his. Then he looked back across the valley and saw his home and the homes of his neighbors sparkling with what seemed to be golden windows. But the golden windows didn’t seem quite so wonderful anymore, and he never again looked across the valley with the same sense of wonder and awe."

Anita went back to stuffing her bird for a moment, then she said: "If you could sing like Nat King Cole, it wouldn’t be so wonderful to hear Nat King Cole sing. Think of all the pleasure you’d miss – especially at this time of year."

Just then a familiar melody drifted from the stereo: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." A lot of talented singers have sung those words, but none has ever sung them quite like Nat King Cole. You hear him sing that song, and without even thinking its message penetrates the soul and fills the heart with peace, hope and happiness. What a pity if we all had the same gifts and missed the privilege of being touched by the unique talents and abilities of others.

It sort of makes you thankful that among all the things we have, there are still a few things that we DON’T have.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.