An Open Christmas Card
To Keith Poche
By Don Barone
"They said there'll be snow at Christmas
they said there'll be peace on Earth…"
Dateline: Facebook Message
I'm a sap at Christmas time.
Since I believe the restaurant managers statute of limitations may be over, I can tell you exactly what kind of a Christmas sap I am. But I won't be naming the exact joint, just in case.
Back some thirty-eight years or so ago I was in the restaurant biz. I was in Restaurant Management, sort of.
I was an Assistant Manager, the Third Assistant Manager.
In case you're wondering, the Third Assistant Manger is the guy who closes up the joint every night, the guy who only sometimes the dish washer listens to, the guy who works every holiday.
That last fact about the holidays, I know for a fact. I changed that at the joint. I was Third out of Two in charge.
I was working Christmas, and the joint was packed. I was "hosting," bartending and table clearing.
But I had a tie on and a pen, pretty much all you needed to be in charge.
That Christmas day we had 120 covers. That is, 120 dinners were served.
The key word above there…SERVED.
Forty-two dinners actually got paid for.
Tie + pen + Christmas = 78... SEVENTY-EIGHT comp'ed dinners.
Every person who walked in the door alone, alone on Christmas, every single one of them, I took their dinner bill from the server... AND VOIDED IT.
Yep I did.
My Restaurant Management career ended in 1973.
December 26th to be exact.
"I wish you a hopeful Christmas…"
I wish you a brave New Year…"
I'm flat out dangerous around this time of year. Last week after pulling all of the change out from the folds in the couch, the bottom of my wife's purse, and the cup holder in my kid's car I had enough money ($10) for a pound of Christmas cookies at my favorite Italian bakery.
I have a very serious problem with my addiction to those Rainbow Cookies, or the ones with the colors of the Italian Flag.
So I go into the bakery joint with $10.60 (tax) and I'm standing in line leaning on the curved glass cookie display and this little four-foot-tall elderly lady is holding her box of cookies by the tiny white rope they wrap around it, and she is having a conversation with the young lady behind the counter.
The conversation is in mostly Italian from my side of the cookies; all English from the cookie side of the cookies.
The elderly lady is saying she is five dollars short, didn't realize the cookies now cost so much, and that, "My name is Maria and I'll come back on the first and give you the five dollars, please.”
The first is when her late husband’s "retirement check" comes in the mail. The people behind the cookie counter are just standing there with their hands out, they want the cookie box the lady named Maria is holding. They want it back.
Maria turns and looks at me and says something in Italian.
Maria is the same height as my late grandfather, speaks the same language, came from the same country, same love of Italian Christmas cookies.
So I said the same thing to Maria that my grandfather used to say to me all the time, an Italian phrase I will never forget.
"Su di me. Su di me."
And then like gramps, I touched my heart.
The girl behind the counter had no idea what I just said, so as Maria was shaking my arm I translated for the counter lady. "On Me. On Me. Here take her five out of this."
So I got a half pound of Italian Christmas cookies, but after the girl put the few cookies in the white bakery box, and weighed it and took my five dollars, after she rang me out, but before she tied the box up she walked back over to the cookie counter and reached in and added two handfuls of cookies to my box, tied it up and handed it to me and said, "Merry Christmas."
Gramps would have been proud of us all.
"…I wish you a brave New Year…"
When I get home from my cookie run I see on Facebook that I have a message, and here is the message exactly as I got it:
"Hey Don, hope you're doing good. I was wondering if you had any ideas of how I can get involved with helping out children this Christmas?"
The message was signed by B.A.S.S. Elite angler, Keith Poche.
I messaged Keith back and said "Yes, yes I do, and I'll send you a Christmas card about how to do it."
Keith, here's your Christmas card.
A quick background on Keith. Keith showed up, volunteered to help the kids at the Tackle The Storm Foundation event we put on in Cullman, Alabama, and he was a huge hit with the kids. Spent the whole time fishing with the kids.
"db, I feel like there is so much more that I have to do, I feel guilty for not doing more, what should I do?" is what he told me when I called him to tell him where to look for his Christmas card with the answers.
Keith came in tenth place overall this year, and will be fishing in the 2012 Classic in Shreveport, LA, not far, he told me, from his home town of Natchitoches, Louisiana.
"What can I do to help the kids around this time of year." Keith here's my answer. Be a sap.
Here's your Christmas card.
"…All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear…"
Keith, I'm 30 years older than you, and if I had those thirty years between me and you back, this is what I would do.
I wouldn't put a specific date on kindness.
It shouldn't take a holiday for us to help one another.
What can you do to help the kids at Christmas? It’s easy. Pretend everyday is Christmas.
Be your Christmas self, year round.
Know that what you do is a dream for both children and adults alike. Honor their dream by being ELITE on and off your field of play.
Give your time to the fans, young and old, because if they don't give you THEIR time, your time here will be short.
You are a steward of the game you play. Pass this sport on to the next generation in better shape than how you found it.
You may think this is an individual sport, but it is not. No one would take to the water without their sponsors, without the service crew in the service yard, and not without the fans. Thank all those around you. You are there because of them.
Love what you do and don't be afraid to show it. Bring the sport alive. Bring zest to your stage. Zest multiples.
Christmas shows us all how kind we can be to each other. It shows us, peace is possible. Peace is within us. Peace is what we are. Kindness is our core.
Give the gift of kindness, and give it all year long.
Wrap it in love for what you do, and for those who come to watch you do it.
Do all this, and you will bring Christmas with you all year long.
That will be how you help the children.
That will be how you help us all.
"…the Christmas we get we deserve."
I Believe In Father Christmas
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Merry Christmas Keith. May your entire year be filled with Peace, Love, and Zest.