Thanks to my Arkansas buddy, Greg Ennis, for sharing a story by author Candy Chand, who observed an unintended but inspirational scene while attending a dress rehearsal for her son's Christmas pageant in 1999.
Chand described what she saw in her book, "Christmas Love, a True Story of a Holiday Miracle."
This is her account:
“Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on non-essential obligations.
Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant."
I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher.
She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I arrived early and found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down.
As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by its teacher, sat on the floor.
Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas, I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Those in the front row, center stage, held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.
As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down – totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W."
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W."
A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
C H R I S T W A S L O V E
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this column attributed details of this story to a wrongful source. The story recounted here originated with author Candy Chand, who wrote about the event in a book titled, "Christmas Love, a True Story of a Holiday Miracle." This column has been edited to reflect the story's correct source.