By Emily M. Akin-
Christmas is coming! Rehearsals for nativity plays should be in full swing. While most plays are memorable, what most audiences remember is not excellence. No—it’s the bloopers that stick in people’s minds. Allow me to share some of my favorites.
Fallen Angel: I was one of three twelve-year-old girls who played the angels in our church play. We wore white skirts fashioned from sheets, secured with safety pins. On top, we wore white blouses under white choir robes. Our wings were white cardboard with gold tinsel glued on. Similar tinsel formed our halos. Waiting for our cue, we hid out at the head of the stairs that descended into the choir loft.
The spotlight swung in our direction. I descended first, stopping on the bottom step. The other angels occupied the higher steps behind me. We didn’t have to speak. We just waited, looking angelic, until the reading and singing were done.
When the spotlight went off, we turned to go back up to “heaven.” I stepped on the hem of my “skirt” and struggled to right myself. I thought I was OK because I didn’t fall. However, I soon realized my skirt was on the floor. Fortunately, I was wearing a white slip underneath, and the spotlight was off. I was mortified, but my fellow angels thought this was devilishly funny.
Where Is Messiah? Remember Simeon, the man who had waited so long for the Messiah? Our pastor devised a skit about Simeon for use in the evening service after Christmas. A family with a new baby played Jesus, Mary, Joseph, while he played Simeon. The “holy family” was to go through the basement underneath the sanctuary and enter from the back. The pastor planned to cue the spotlight by saying, “Where is Messiah?” Too bad, the basement lights were off. Baby Jesus’ entourage had to hunt for the light switch before making their way through the basement. Simeon said, “Where is Messiah?” The spotlight turned on cue. No one was there.
Simeon ad-libbed, “Oh, Lord, I am an old man. I’ve waited soooo long for Messiah! Surely, the time is now. Where is Messiah?” Still nothing. After a few more ad-libs, Baby Jesus and family finally appeared in the spotlight. Simeon exclaimed, “Thank you, Lord. Messiah is here.” While some stifled their giggles, others were thanking the Lord along with the pastor.
FIRE! As a teenager, I played piano for the children’s choir. One Christmas, the adult choir presented a musical program. The children were to sing a couple of songs after all the characters had arrived at the manger. The piano was an upright, and the top was heavily decorated with greenery and real candles with real flames. I played a little “traveling music” for the kids to get in place. So far, so good.
Once the singing started, I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice that the greenery was on fire. One of the ushers rushed down to blow out the
candles and beat out the conflagration. All eyes were on the amateur fire fighter, but the children and I kept performing like we were the only show in town. Since then, I balk at candles on the piano. If decorators insist on greenery, it must be fake—and definitely fireproof.
Why do we remember the bloopers? I think it’s because we know everyone wants to do it right. Because we’re human, we make mistakes. We forgive the bloopers because we know God has forgiven us. That’s what the coming of the Baby Jesus is all about, isn’t it?
By Emily M. Akin –
“Decaf coffee, please,” I said as I stepped to the head of the line. The teen behind the counter looked puzzled, so I repeated my order.
“One decaf coffee,” he said, ringing it up. “That’s 60 cents.”
“But the coffee price is $1.00,” I said.
“Senior discount,” he announced, already heading for the coffee machine.
I looked around to see if anyone might have heard him. The man in line behind me smiled. I didn’t know whether to feel insulted, honored or lucky to save a few cents. Since I was holding up the line, I let it go and moved on. I felt like a fraud because I didn’t really qualify for the discount. But, what made him think I was a senior citizen? Was it the dozen or so gray hairs? Did I appear decrepit and therefore truly deserving of the discount?
Senior discounts are a good marketing tool, but they can backfire. That young man went out on a limb giving me the discount. He probably thought he was doing me a favor. What if I had taken it as an insult? I might have caused a scene in front of all the other customers. He forced me to let everyone think I was over the hill already—not a kind thing to do to someone teetering on the brink of seniorhood. What was just another order for him was a stark wake-up call for me. To him, I looked old.
Another time, I went to a buffet restaurant with friends my age. The server, who seemed new to the job, eyed the bald-headed man in the group. “Does anyone get the senior discount?” she asked in all innocence. To which the shiny-head replied, “One of us does.” After the meal, the server returned with the bill listing all of our orders on the same ticket. One of us got the senior discount. We had to figure out who it was before we went to the counter. Experienced or not, that server successfully avoided insulting anyone. She passed the buck to the man at the checkout counter.
A gray-haired friend ordered food at a drive-in window. The cashier gave the total, announcing that she had received the senior discount. She wondered why he thought she qualified. Did she have a doddering, elderly voice? She was depressed for several days thinking she sounded old, until someone suggested that there was probably a video camera next to the drive-thru speaker. Not much comfort. She didn’t sound old, she just looked old.
But what’s the solution? If the employees are trained to give the senior discount to anyone who looks old enough, they don’t have to ask. But, they also run the risk of insulting folks who look older than they are. It’s true, the customer is compensated for the insult, but it doesn’t make for repeat customers. Why don’t they start carding people for senior discounts? That way, if you want that discount, you have to admit your senior status publicly.
A restaurant in my town has come up with a solution. The sign at the register says, “Senior Discount Available. Just ask.” This puts the ball entirely in the customer’s court. The employees don’t have to risk offending anyone, and customers can get the discount if they’re brave enough to request it. A classic win-win situation.
By Emily M. Akin –
“You’re not walking back to the dorm alone after 11:00 p.m., are you?” Mom’s face scrunched up with worry.
“Yeah, that’s not a good idea,” Dad agreed.
“Oh, it’s OK,” Jenny said. “Don’t worry. Some of the guys walk back to the dorms with me. No one leaves the building without an escort.”
Like all parents of female freshmen at large universities, these parents were concerned about their daughter’s safety, particularly walking on campus at night. The “panic” buttons posted on utility poles along the walkways were no comfort. Jenny had told them she went to the church-related student center every evening to study with friends. Most nights, she stayed until it closed at 11:00 p.m.
It was parents’ weekend, and the student center was hosting a lunchtime cookout for parents. To ease their minds, Jenny had promised to introduce Mom and Dad to some of the young men who served as late-night campus escorts.
“Mom, Dad—this is Harry. He’s one of the guys who walks us to the dorms at night,” she said.
Dad smiled, although, at the same time, his mouth dropped open. Simultaneously, Mom’s eyebrows shot skyward. Harry, who was all of 5 feet 2 inches tall, extended his left hand in greeting. This was necessary because his right arm sported an enormous cast.
Dad, speechless and wide-eyed, pulled Mom aside as soon as he could without being rude. “Is he supposed to be the bodyguard?” he hissed. “Why, he’s not as big as she is! What’s he going to do? Whack the attacker with that cast?”
“Please!” Mom shushed him. “Contain yourself.”
“Well, for Pete’s sake, Jenny could beat him up herself—with one hand tied behind her back,” Dad said. “He might be useful as a witness, but that’s about it.”
I wonder if God has the same reaction when He sees us cooking up some of our clever schemes. He may mumble to himself about how that won’t work. But, God loves us, so He lets us do our own thing.
By Emily M. Akin –
I hate apples. Not because they were used to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden. I hate them because I was over-exposed to them in childhood. I wouldn’t call it a traumatic experience, but it was close.
My grandmother, who lived right next door, had an apple orchard. It produced enough apples to feed all the world’s starving children and armies combined. But, we had to eat them or preserve them with no help from the rest of the world.
When apple-picking time arrived, all the kids in the family were enlisted to pick, transport and preserve the apples—thousands of them. Peeling, coring, cooking, slicing, drying—it went on for days on end. We ate apples sauced, baked, spiced, canned and chopped in salads. Apples were on the ground around the trees, in baskets on the porch, soaking in salt-water baths or waiting to be cooked. Even the top of the well house sported a layer of cored sliced apples drying in the sun.
I tried feeding some to the cows, but they were not interested. The apple orchard was also their pasture, so I guess they were tired of them too. Finally, I realized that I would be going back to school soon. The apple harvest could continue without me, and I would get a break from handling and eating apples.
On the first day of school, I picked up my lunch tray and started down the line. (Back then, you ate what they served, no picking and choosing allowed.) When I glanced down at my tray, my mouth fell open. In the little pocket on the left was Waldorf salad with little red apple peels peeking out at me. Where did they come from? Oh, no! My grandparents had sold their excess apples to the school lunch program.
Years later, when my budget was tight, I would have welcomed a basket of free apples. Why do we not to appreciate our abundance when times are good? Like the Israelites in the desert, we complain that we have too much of one thing or not enough of another (Numbers 11:4-6).
I still choose the “un-apple” when offered a choice among the fruits. And, I admit I hold some resentment in my heart for Johnny Appleseed. I mean, what motivated him to force apples on everyone? But, I’ve wised up. If apples are the only thing on the menu, I thank God for what He has provided.