Kenneth L. Hardin: Viewing Christmas differently as an adult

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 25, 2022

I’ll admit Christmas has changed for me from when I was a child. When I was a little chitlin’ growing up on the West End, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive. I raised my kids to be conscious and aware, but ensured they believed in the magic of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and others in that imaginary gang.

Back in their younger days, we didn’t set out the traditional milk and cookies for Santa to snack on. We showed true skinfolk hospitality and alleviated our kids’ concern for Santa’s strength by frying up a plate of chicken legs for him to munch on. On Christmas morning, our kids marveled at the plate of yard bird appendages with bites taken out of each one. I have a 3-year-old grandson, whose blood flows with Cameroonian and that of a people situated in an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. As I focus on holiday diversity and inclusion, I’m not sure what delicacies to put out this year. I’m certain it will represent the United Nations of Kris Kringle. Pop Pop’s fragile stomach will have plenty of Pepto Bismol close by.

For several years prior to my grandson’s arrival, I had lost the childhood thrill of Christmas. It’s no longer about that fictional birthday for Jesus. Outside of the folks I list on my IRS 1040 form, I don’t do the holiday. It tickles me to see grown folks get upset because they didn’t get the gift they wanted. Instead of the reason for the season, starting after Thanksgiving, people go into debt spending money on folks they don’t like, that don’t like them, or who they don’t talk to on a regular basis, but they’ll still try to impress them. I marvel at how folks will risk bankruptcy for one day a year trying to outshine another person with how much unnecessary spending they can engage in, all to enjoy depreciable materialism.

People’s guilt from participating in so much unnecessary consumerism prompts them to donate to the bell ringers and snatch paper angels off of a donor tree. What bothers me so much about this type of humanity is everyone feels it in December, but forget those same people have similar needs the next June and July. Sadly, as the thermometer climbs north, those people become invisible. When I recognized Christmas gift giving ceased being from the heart and started being about how long the receipt was, I threw my hands up in defeat, and yelled “no mas” to those living outside of my front door.

My grandson isn’t fully aware of what the holiday is about, but his daily energy and unconditional love has changed that Scrooge and Grinch like behavior in me. Our house looks like Christmas got sick and threw up in it with decorations everywhere. It starts with the fully decorated tree inside and on the front porch, and Santa’s face on the toilet seat lids. I’m on a first name basis with the Amazon Prime and Fed-ex delivery folks that brought packages for him almost daily. My spirit has been revived, and just like when my boys were little chitlins themselves, I’m more excited than my grandson will be on this Christmas morning.

I’ve always felt every kid should wake up with something under the tree on Christmas morning. My nonprofit, The High Road, Inc., tried to make that happen by blessing several families with a little Christmas happiness in this gun violent and crime ridden slice of marginal heaven where I bought my Christmas tree.

Aside from wishing people would stop parking in crosswalks and fire lanes at Food Lion and understaffed fast-food spots would close instead of offering slow, poor service, I don’t have many other Christmas wishes. My life feels blessed and complete. My singular wish is that people who disagree with my voice would find better ways to express it. For over 30 years, I’ve refused to wear a metaphorical bulletproof vest or any other protective armor when I write or speak publicly.

I abhor those who shower me with praise, speak to me in aggressive tones and initially stand staunch on sensitive and divisive issues, but then yield to public pressure and apologize when the collective disagrees and threatens to cancel them. If I say it, do it or write it, I will own it and suffer whatever repercussions may come.

The legendary singer, Nina Simone, said it best: “What I hope to do all the time is completely be myself, and when people meet me, they are confronted with what I am inside and out as honest as I can be. And that way, they have to see things about themselves immediately.”

When I wake up on December 25th, I hope the big fella will have granted all my wishes.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.