“The Peppermint Stick”

I recall one year, when I was still a baby, that I got the mumps just before Christmas day. I can remember sitting in my high chair trying to eat, and crying because it hurt so much. Now people laugh at me when I tell them that I can remember when I was a baby, and they really scoff when I tell them that I can remember being in my mother’s womb, but that’s another story.

We always got fruit, nuts and candy in our Christmas stockings and that year, we all got a large peppermint candy stick, which was about an inch in diameter, and seven or eight inches long. My jaws hurt from the mumps and I was very sick, but all I could think about was eating some of that candy. It was so beautiful and it looked so delicious, and I wanted so very much, for something to make me feel better, but try as I might, I could not force my lips open far enough to get the job done. The best I could do was to stick my tongue out and lick it a little.

Because I was so sick, I thought eating some of that candy would help me feel better, but even after all of that effort, the candy stick actually tasted terrible and kind of made me sicker. It was quite a long time after I recovered before I tried to eat any more of it, and I actually threw most of it away. When Mom made me some soup, which as I recall, wasn’t all that appealing nor was it pretty, but it sure was good, I eagerly slurped it off of the spoon.

A lot of things in life, people, cars, clothes, houses, etc., are just like that candy stick. They look beautiful, they look delicious, they seem to offer something that will make everything better, and even though we might not be able to afford them; even though they might be the worst thing for us, we do our dead level best to acquire them. We see the ads and buy into the myth that things can make us happy, and we want that promised contentment so much, that we will do anything to get it, but like the candy stick, when we finally get these “things”, they often makes things worse.

Every year, thousands of Americans go deeply in debt, trying to have a “Merry Christmas.” The dangerous world situation, national and international unrest, marital or family problems, illness, job stress, horrible murders like the ones in Connecticut and more, cause all of us to yearn for a happier, merrier Christmas than ever before, but buying things we cannot afford, doing drugs or drinking to excess will not do the trick. TV, newspapers, store fronts, movies, all seem to offer answers, and in our hearts we cry “oh if only…” but as with me and that peppermint stick, reality seldom if ever matches the hype surrounding it.

New cars, different husbands or wives, bigger TVs, parties, clothes or jewelry, or what have you, do not hold the key to happiness. With or without these things you are still you; I am still me, and our problems have not changed. The Bible says “Even though I gain the whole world and do not have love, I have nothing,” and love is the real message of Christmas. Love came down in Bethlehem in the form of a baby. Love went to the cross to open the door to peace of mind and heart through a relationship with God. Love for family and friends is what is most important at any time, and even moreso at Christmas.

Instead of seeking happiness in self indulgence, follow the example of the Wise Men. Seek the one who offers “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” for “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord,” and when you find Him, He’ll share His love with you, and you can share it with others.

May all that is good, all that is helpful, all that is truly beautiful, fill not just your stockings, but your hearts and lives at Christmas and throughout the coming new year.

Chaplain Fred Jeans
Kenilworth Care And Rehab


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