Everyone talks about the hustle and bustle of Black Friday. But for many years, the day after Christmas was when my grandfather was still alive he officially opened the doors of our Christmas tree farm at Cochituate Road, in Wayland, Massachusetts to the public. In his infinite wisdom, Granddaddy knew many families had traditions to trek out and pick out their Christmas tree soon after the day after Thanksgiving.
So, still recovering from the heavy meal from the previous day, my grandfather would be at the bottom of the hill stringing out the lines of string that he would tie up the rows of pre-cut trees that people could pull up in their cars and select. He and I would then set upon the field and select about twenty trees, and drag them down the hill behind the tractor.
It would also mark my days and weekends where I would standout and sit out, cold, rain, sleet, hail, and freezing wind. I recount this story with a tear EVERY year. I miss those days.
Not just with the memory of celebrating with my family, but I miss in sharing in the fun with customers’ FAMILIES.
It amazed me that in the twenty years that we kept the business open, I only remember that thieves stole one or two threes, as we left the trees unattended at night. It was very much an honor system. But that is how old-fashioned my grandfather was. Apart from my work ethic, my grandfather taught me to look for the good in people foremost, no matter what. There have been a few times that people have abused my trust. You cannot help somebody, if they do not wish to help themselves.
But you cannot let that dissuade you. There is always still the NEXT person you can help. There is always the NEXT person who you can reach. There is always the NEXT person who you can unknowingly affect.
An act of kindness during the Christmas tree season can achieve this. We never boasted about this, but we donated trees to quite a few families that could not afford to buy trees. When we offered to let them pick a tree for a lesser price, they would return with trees that were small, crooked, or had bald spots.
At his point in my story, you must close your eyes and imagine my grandfather’s voice. There was always an emphasis upon the beginning of his sentences. The Harrison family knows EXACTLY what I am talking about.
“WELLLLLL! Let’s see if we can do a little better than that.” He would say with a smile.
Grandaddy would then take them back up into the field to find the perfect tree. If the family found a tree that was two feet too tall, Grandaddy would cut the tree down, then cut two extra feet from the bottom with a chain saw, and trim the tree until it was the ideal shape. He charged them reduced price or merely wish them a “Merry Christmas!” with a handshake.
OH! I almost forgot! From the extra length of tree, he would cut off branches from which they could make a Christmas wreath for their front door.
People came back year after year. They were sad when he finally closed up shop. We had become a tradition for many families in the area.
2020 is going to be a tough year for many during the holidays. Many cannot see their families because of COVID. Many have lost someone because of the pandemic. Like everyone, I am frustrated with the disruption to normal life. But what is “normal”? Although these months have shown how as a society we can rally together under a common cause, there is also an ugly side to us. This disruptive change has opened a pandora’s box and has given us a good look at the many wounds, prejudices, and lines of conflict that have been simmering under the surface. It is sad that it took a mere push to send us into chaos.
Let us look to the various holidays this season, and the coming year of 2021, to promote peace and good will toward each other. Let us look to the future and the past—forget the current conflicts.
As author Ryk Brown writes:
”Try not worry so much about the result and concentrate on the effort themselves.”
Or as my grandfather taught me:
“ALWAYS look for the good foremost in people.”
“Good will unto men.”
Religious implications aside, that is the point to Christmas, isn’t it?