Like every Christmas Eve before, the whole family had gathered to watch one of the many versions of The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Everyone was there including the usual handful of aunts, uncles, and cousins who always slept over. And everyone was in the living room having fun except Jordan. While everyone was celebrating Christmas Eve, Jordan was in his room playing video games like he did all day every day. He didn’t even get out of his room to say hi to people and if anyone tried saying hi to him, he would mumble something that didn’t sound at all welcoming. Jordan was in his early twenties and had a rare disease that meant it was unlikely he would see his thirtieth birthday. In a way, he was like Tiny Tim except no matter how much money someone had to give to help him, nothing would make a difference. Jordan’s body was slowly shutting down. He was confined to a motorized wheelchair and it would only get worse for him. Clearly, just like Tiny Tim, he was going through something terrible. Unlike Tiny Tim, however, Jordan was… well, a jerk. Personality wise, he was more like Scrooge. The best word to describe him was curmudgeon because he was very… curmudgeony (if that was a word). Jordan was never appreciative of the help he was given or offered any encouragement for his caregivers. Instead, he resented any help he was shown even though he’d be lost without it.
As the evening moved on and everyone was enjoying The Muppets Christmas Carol (the best version of The Christmas Carol), during the part of the movie when Tiny Tim sings the heart wrenching song “Bless Us All,” Jordan wheeled into the living room area and screamed, “Turn that crap off!”
Jordan’s dad quickly turned off the movie and the room went deathly quiet… until the one cousin’s long time boyfriend, Tom, stood up and gently said, “I’m sorry the movie bothers you.” Jordan’s angry face remained unchanged as Tom continued. “You know Jordan, I’ve been watching you for many years now and your situation really sucks. I can’t imagine being in your position. I think it’s really important that I say that. I think it’s also important that I say this.” While Tom paused, everyone prepared for a heartwarming Christmas moment. “You’ve had a tough life, but you’re making it worse because you’re a jerk. You’re the meanest person I’ve ever met.” That was not the heartwarming moment people expected. It was actually the total opposite of what they thought he would say. Tom continued, “There’s no kindness or warmth to you. Instead, you’re so full of hate and anger you make it hard to want to be near you let alone help you. I’m tired of everyone letting you be so terrible because you can be so much more than this. You could be such an inspiration to people like Tiny Tim, but you’re settling for being garbage. I believe in you. I believe you can be more than this, and I hope you’re willing to be.” The family was aghast. The room was eerily silent before, but it somehow managed to be even more silent now if that was even possible.
Tom’s girlfriend suddenly broke the silence. “Tom!”
Tom casually responded, “Yes,” and because he was so casual and not defensive in how he said it, his girlfriend didn’t know what to say next. He clearly wasn’t speaking in anger. It came from something deeper.
Everyone stared at Tom like they were in a trance until they heard Jordan’s bedroom door slam. At that point, Jordan’s parents snapped out of their stupor and started yelling at Tom. When they took a break from attacking him, Tom asked them in a tone that was unapologetic but warm, “Just so I understand, are you angry at me for saying the long hidden truth or are you angry that you weren’t the ones to say it?” Embarrassed by the truth, Jordan’s parents started yelling at him again because they didn’t know what else to do. What do you do when a problem that’s been swept under the carpet for years is revealed? When the next break in the yelling came, Tom calmly asked, “I’m curious what you think: Is it better to be honest at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings or to bottle up the hurt and let it build resentment making it a struggle to love someone?” Jordan’s parents prepared to start yelling again, but Tom continued, “You’ve been emotionally abused for as long as I’ve known you and I care about you and Jordan too much to let that continue without saying something. I’m going to head to bed and will be happy to talk about this in the morning or I can go back to pretending nothing’s wrong if that’s what you’d prefer. Right now I need to let you figure out what you’re really feeling about this before you continue saying things out of anger.” With that, Tom left the room and people were more confused than ever. Who was this guy? What right did he have to say anything? What right did he have to be so calm?
The next morning, things weren’t much better. The routine was thrown off and people didn’t know what to do. A few people made idle conversation, but no one knew what to do to make it better; what they did all agree on was to avoid Tom who sat in the living room reading his Bible. The family knew what he said the night before was true – Jordan was a jerk – but didn’t he have a right to be? He was in a wheelchair and he was going to die soon… but at the same time, no one really liked him. If he died, would it be more of a relief or sadness? What they did know was if he wasn’t family, they’d have nothing to do with him because he was such a jerk.
To add to the confusion, Jordan’s bedroom light stayed on the whole night, and people were worried about him. They heard noises coming from his room, so they knew he was safe, but when they knocked on the door, he didn’t respond. He didn’t even yell, “Go away!” like he normally did. He must have been really upset.
Breaking the awkwardness, Jordan’s dad yelled at Tom, “How can you sit there reading a book when you’ve ruined Christmas? Last night you drove a wedge into the family that was never meant to be made! We were fine. It wasn’t great, but it was better than this! Now, Jordan’s locked himself in his room because you’ve ruined everything!”
For the first time Tom showed an emotion other than calmness as his eyes glazed over like he was about to tear up and he gently replied, “I’m sorry you feel so hurt. I understand what I did was extreme, but I care about you too much to watch you suffer any longer without doing something. I will head out, so you can try to restore what you had.” And true to his word, Tom went to his room and grabbed his bag that was already packed like he knew he was going to have to leave. When he got to the front door, he turned and solemnly said, “I really am sorry for upsetting you,” and as he turned to leave, a voice from behind everyone was heard.
“Don’t!” It was Jordan. He had come out of his room. Everyone turned and backed up revealing a path between Tom and Jordan. “You’re right. I am a jerk.”
Jordan’s mom interrupted, “No you’re not!”
But Jordan continued, “Tom was right. Everything he said was true. I don’t think anyone will miss me when I die. How could they? I’m just so… angry that life has been so unfair to me. Part of me has always wanted to be close to people, but at the same time, I’ve pushed you away because I’ve hated how life is easier for you. My situation sucks and I’ve resented needing help, but this has only made me lonely and even more resentful.” Jordan started to tear up. “I know I’ve been a jerk, but I don’t want to be anymore. I want to be someone that you’ll miss when I die.”
After a few minutes, Tom once again was the first to move in the silence. This time, however, he didn’t say anything; he just ran to Jordan and gave him a hug. And while they were hugging, the others could faintly hear the words “Thank you,” be repeated over and over, but no one could tell if it was Jordan or Tom saying it. After the hug, Jordan handed Tom a card and then he went to each person there, hugged them, and gave a card he had made in the night that described what he loved most about them. It was the first gift people could remember that Jordan actually gave at Christmas. Something was indeed different.
The last people Jordan hugged were his parents, and when he hugged them, he whispered, “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry. I will better for you. I will be the son you deserve,” and that led to a rush of tears from both the parents whose tears seemed to wash away all the hurt and resentment they had been harboring towards their son. After they could compose themselves enough to speak, they in turn whispered, “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry. I will be better for you. I will be the parent you deserve.”
And like a real Christmas miracle, Jordan was true to his word and from that day forward he became a better person. He made it a daily routine to message everyone when he woke up saying he wished them a joyful day. Instead of just playing video games, he spent most of his time messaging people words of encouragement and trying to get out and meet new people that he could share his new found sense of love and peace. In one moment his life was changed. He went from being Ebenezer Scrooge to Tiny Tim all because someone took a chance out of love.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)