The Gift of Connection
I love holiday commercials, the warmness and color. Some are great for only those reasons because they’re just selling a car, a diamond ring or a puppy, the big commitments that often reach their tipping point around metaphorical holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. Sitting tucked in on chilled December nights has provided ample opportunity for my dad and me to watch quite a few of those commercials. One in particular caught our eye as lacking substance under the glitz, but for very different reasons.
Like all the other holiday commercials there was a scene filled with Christmas music playing and snow frosting the countryside outside. A figure recorded a holiday carol and then walked through a stone arched bridge that ensures quaintness, to a town square filled with people and a very tall lit Christmas tree. Only then were we allowed to see that our well-wisher was Frankenstein, who was apparently determined to reach out and “fit in” at least to the holiday scenery. He proceeded to carefully screw two light bulbs into the sockets on his neck, one red and the other green. Then, he began to sing. It took the faith of a small child to join him so that he eventually received the embrace of the town via a shared melody.
“A guy who is composed of dead body parts. We’re supposed to believe this would happen?” Dad critiqued.
“Well, it’s clever,” I offered.
“There’s no way.”
I knew he was hesitant to embrace the commercial for the same reason that he cannot stand the Twilight series. His monsters must remain monsters, no feelings, no love, no sex, no regret, no redemption of any kind. His monsters are incapable of evolution and he resents any author who would twist and tweak other dimensions within those established characters. I paused and sipped my coffee. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to extend this particular conversation.
“I can tell you why I don’t like it,” I spit out hesitantly.
He turned his head, “Why?”
So I continued, “Its message is ‘Open your heart to everyone’, but it isn’t using a real ‘everyone’. The commercial asks its audience to extrapolate a universal truth into something real in their lives.” I know from my staff training days where we were supposed to be “good facilitators” and a “community of readers” that this task is not so simple nor does it happen without much practice.
Newspaper down and head tilted forward to see me above his glasses, I could tell my dad was still interested. I began again. “People need to see the one that they are not opening their heart to, the real person. We get better when we take the time to list specific examples or we practice real situations.” My author self and teacher naysayer were now clasped together in a holiday wrestling match that began with a commercial that had implored me to open my arms for a hug.
My dad settled in his chair and flipped the page of his newspaper. “Huh?” was the response. “That wasn’t what I expected.”
“It’s clever. I like it,” said my author brain.
“But it won’t help. It will be just like the M&M activity where the kids close their eyes and taste how sweet everyone is inside without knowing the candy coated color.”
“Practice makes permanent,” rang out my gym trainer’s instruction.
“The commercial that is better,” I finished. “Is the one with the two religious men who both know the hurt they feel while kneeling and without prior communication, send each other the same gift.”
“Their connection is a real life example. It tells me exactly how they related to each other,” I allowed my teacher brain to finish. Accepting that my desire to often set the scene in my own writing through metaphor may very well fall short of the message, holiday or any other, that I want to send.
And the one that I want to send, during this season decked in rosy red and twinkle glisten, is that we connect in more ways than we don’t. That is the greatest gift I know I can receive this holiday season, ways to connect in the world beyond the geographical miracle of Santa’s sleigh.