When I was in college, I brought a group of friends home to Greenwood to spend a night in the Emerald City over one of my Christmas breaks. My little sister, Catherine, was about 8 years old at the time, and she was thoroughly enamored with the concept of magic.
Just a few weeks before my friends arrived to Greenwood, a family friend had bought Catherine a magic set. In the weeks leading up to December, she’d practiced the magic tricks time and time again using my parents, my brother — really anybody she could find — to test her abilities for innocent, playful trickery.
Sometime during her self-education on the art of magic, perhaps no one in the family had really noticed that 8-year-old Catherine had caught an episode of “Family Feud” featuring Richard Dawson exclaiming, “Survey says!” again and again as he shared with the game show contestants the correct answers generated from survey responses collected by the show’s producers.
Apparently Catherine thought that exclamation would be a good addition to her magic routine, and so when a group of my 19-year-old friends gathered in my family’s living room one December evening for an impromptu magic show by an 8-year-old, Catherine was ready to show off. Imagine our surprise when she began a trick, took guesses from her captive audience, then waved her magic wand and — before revealing the answer — she shrieked with delight, “Somebody said!”
Who could correct a mistake that cute? Certainly not anybody gathered in our living room that cold December evening. Catherine had mistakenly heard “Somebody said!” when listening to Richard Dawson’s “Survey says!” but there wasn’t a soul in sight that would’ve dared mention the error to my well-meaning, innocent, thrilled-with-her-audience little sister.
For some reason, I think about that memory often. I remember the bay window in that living room and the way the light of our Christmas tree would warmly shine through the window and onto the sidewalk where I’d come home from college every Christmastime, really just a kid myself. I remember the dark wooden piano against the wall, and the sound of Mom’s Christmas carols floating gently out of that old, beautiful instrument. And mostly, I remember the warm feeling of people gathered around in that room — my family, and many times our friends. My family has long moved away from that house, but the echoes of joy in its hallways and rooms have never moved away from me.
I can’t say exactly why I remembered that one Christmas memory this week, except that maybe I feel a little tug — a little longing — for all of us to be a little more forgiving of one another this year, to be a little less quick to point out the mistakes of well-meaning people maneuvering around the roadblocks and detours presented by the year 2020.
When the last drop of summer leaves South Carolina this year and the holidays begin to roll around — perhaps with their own new roadblocks and detours — I hope I’ll still remember the lessons I learned from an 8-year-old with a magic wand: how unimportant it is to be right about everything, and how undeniable is God’s call for us to love one another.