In the true spirit of the holidays, lessons of humility and love can be passed on in the most unexpected ways.
Fifty years ago, a foursome of hip, young high-school boys and girls, created a game to find the least attractive outdoor Christmas display in their neighborhood. The “Velveeta® Cheesy Award” judges searched impecunious households that could not afford to purchase displays from department stores but were determined to invest effort and time to decorate their yards for Christmas.
We scoured the neighborhood for candidates. There were plenty to choose from but one stood out from the rest. On one side of the tiny yard was a huge piece of cheap plywood, cut into a triangular tree shape, with colored bulbs dripping out of holes that had been punched out in a haphazard pattern. Childlike paintings and crayon-colored designs could barely be detected on the rain-soaked wood. And at the top of this plywood abomination was an old doll made out of pipe cleaners and masking tape, with rags for its misshapen wings. It was the strangest-looking angel I had ever seen.
On the other side of the broken sidewalk was a homemade nativity scene, sawed, nailed and glued together from the leftovers of the plywood tree. Wrapped in a dish towel, the baby Jesus was three times the size of the miniaturized Mary and Joseph. All three had red, crayon smiles and purple eyes. An assortment of stuffed animals were pinned to the surrounding ground with stakes and an aluminum-foil star hung limply from a metal pole. Finally, a yellow spotlight cast grotesque shadows across the entire scene.
Gulping beers hidden under the carseat, we would watch the dad and four kids reassemble the wind-blown decorations each night. It was great fun.
On Christmas Eve, we heated blocks of Velveeta® cheese together into a huge brick. We stuck a note to the front of it that read: CONGRATULATIONS!! YOU’VE WON THE VELVEETA® CHEESY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS AWARD!! After depositing the award in the family’s mailbox, we honked the horn and sped off.
After several days had passed, a short letter appeared in the local newspaper. “Dear Velveeta® Cheesy Award Judges,” it read. “Thank you for recognizing the love that went into our decorations. The family is enjoying the delicious cheese. And, please, do not drink and drive in our neighborhood. Merry Christmas, The Nelson Family.”
Five decades later, this Cheesy Judge is still attempting to apply the Nelson family’s example of love and humility. Behavior change happens over a lifetime.