The best gift of all 

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I had a dream.

Doesn't have the same impact when I say it, does it? Alas, we can't all be MLK.

Wasn't an earth-shattering dream. No giant leap for mankind. Or womankind. More like weird cartoon. A little funny. A little wacko. Really hard to figure out.

In the dream, my beard had turned white. Grown long. I'd gotten quite fat. My wardrobe, never particularly flashy, had warped dramatically to the red end of the spectrum. Bright red. Velvet no less. And very gay. Not that kind of gay. Seasonally gay.

Despite being the size of a compact car, I was jolly. Fat and jolly. With a big red suit. A big red nose. Big red cheeks. A smile that showed no teeth. Only beard and mustache hair filtering my voice. Dusting off my food on the way in.

I was given to "Ho, ho, ho"-ing a lot. Not always at a completely appropriate moment. Often in a crowd. Seemingly for no reason at all. It drew stares.

Perhaps most disturbing personally, all my sentences had gotten short. Choppy. A crisis in punctuation. A failure of syntax. Like I'd acquired a foreign language. Both in speech and writing. I didn't recognize my voice.

My friends had abandoned me. They were nowhere to be seen. In their place, small people — elves, or selves, or something like that; they didn't speak too clearly in my dream — surrounded me. They were hard at work. A constant whirl of motion and activity. A blur of movement about knee high. Very fast.

They made things. Not toys. At least not in the sense of children's toys. There were no trains. No dolls. No stuffed animals. No games. Nothing at all to fuel a violent imagination. Their creations were playful nonetheless.

Each of them worked ceaselessly. Each worked alone. No one seemed to do the same job as anyone else. They were all specialists.

One would fiddle and fuss for a while at one work bench. Then he'd move on. Unless he was a she. In which case, she'd move on. Another would take her place. Or his. Do the specialized work for a while at whatever project the other had left.

They had their own tools. They had their own ingredients and parts. They had their own technique. None quite like the others. Each in their turn. Some would work longer on one project than the others. Then work hardly at all on the next one.

I walked up behind one. I didn't recognize what he was doing. Or what he was working on. It hadn't taken on enough shape to look like anything I'd ever seen before.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

He answered in a voice I couldn't understand. It sounded like, "Oium oadwing sevalousnasz." In a high, pinched voice. Like The Chipmunks at the wrong speed.

When I pulled my hat down over my ears, the words made sense. "I'm adding selflessness."

"To what?" I asked.

"To understanding," he replied. "To acceptance."

I didn't get it.

"What are you making?" I demanded, growing annoyed.

"A better future," he said. "A future embracing change. A future marked by balance. A future unlike anything in the past."

"What the hell kind of present is that?" I'd tired of his obtuse answers. But was willing to play along.

"The best kind of all." He may have winked when he answered. "Without lots of it to spread around, the future will be full of strife, selfishness, intransigence, lots and lots of nastiness." When he spoke, it was hard not to hear the contempt in his voice.

"I think that ship's sailed," dismissively.

"All the more reason," exasperation.

"Well, who are you going to give it to?" I wanted to know.

"No one. That's your job. You're the Santa in this dream after all. You have to give it out."

"Who's it for?"

"This batch is for people in Whistler. The other batches we've been making all year go other places in the world where they're needed."

"That would be everywhere," I said. "Must be a big batch."

"Big need," he replied. "Not so much where you live. Lots of changes happening there. Lots of resistance to them too. Awful lot of people seem to want to freeze things the way they are. The way they were. At least the way they were when they came on the scene. Which isn't how they were very long before that. In most cases."

"I...." Caught myself in mid-thought. Caught myself thinking about what he said. I'd wanted to answer quickly. Something flip. Something about how compared to places in the world where neighbourly differences lead to bloodshed, Whistler was a haven of toleration. Somehow, I knew it was true. But somehow I knew it didn't matter. I didn't know how I knew. That's just the way things go in dreams. Sometimes you can fly. Other times you know things. Sometimes you're naked. In a crowd. Go figure.

I knew it was exciting and interesting living in a place so dynamic. Dynamic in the sense of change. Constant flux. Things growing like Topsy.

I knew it was interesting being in a place so young. Where history was contemporary. Where people who can remember when almost nothing was here are still around. Where you can hear the whole story of the town first hand. Over a beer. Sometimes whether you want to or not.

I knew there was something unreal about trying to live an ordinary life in a place so extraordinary. Of being common in a town of such privilege and wealth.

And most oddly, I understood the power of participating in the decisions that would shape the future I would look on some day as the past. When I'm older. Years from now. I knew decisions shaped by self interest wouldn't be as good as selfless ones. Ones taking into account everyone's needs. Not just my own.

And so I said nothing for the moment. I knew what was being made was important. I knew I had to harness up the reindeer and deliver it. I didn't trust flying reindeer though. I didn't know the takeoff procedures. And flying at Christmastime is so painful. Under the best of conditions. Which looking at the tail end of a reindeer definitely is not.

When the last elf was finished, their creation loaded, I started to go. I was kinda hoping I'd wake up before the flying thing happened. As I started out the door, one of them called out to me.

"Oh, don't forget this small box." As he tossed it into the sleigh.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Punctuation," he said. Write longer sentences when you wake up.



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