Three men are killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve and find themselves at the Pearly Gates.
All they have to do to get into heaven, St Peter says, is show him something associated with Christmas.
The first man smiles, pulls out his wallet and produces a picture of the Virgin Mary and he is sent straight in.
The second man fumbles around for a while but eventually finds a scrap of wrapping paper that features an image of the three wise men.
The gatekeeper nods his head and lets him through as well.
Then the third man reaches deep into his pocket and pulls out a pair of red and green knickers.
Fascinated, St Peter asks, ‘But how do these represent Christmas?’
That’s it; that’s my Christmas gift: one lousy joke.
Well, that and a suggestion for a gift you can give to your family, your friends, and to everyone else you meet.
The thing is, though, you would have to give it to yourself first.
This thought was inspired by an e-mail from a guy who teaches people to play the guitar by recording instructional DVDs and peddling them over the internet.
What he said, basically, was… cut yourself a break.
The point he was making was that we all tend to be our own worst critics and he related a story about how he recently came off stage after a live performance thinking he’d really stank the place out only to be told by several friends that he had never sounded so good.
Then he said this kind of thing happens to him all the time, and he thinks that is because after we’ve been doing something for a while it is natural for us expect ourselves to be a whole lot better than we have any right to be.
I see this quite often with my own guitar playing and with my daughter’s.
I get down on myself because I’m not nearly as good as she is at hearing the beat and changing cords in time with the music, while she gets down on herself when she can’t perform a song as well as the person who made the original recording.
Pretty unreasonable, but normal; and I have the advantage of seeing my own actions reflected in my daughter’s, so I can see how this perfectionist mindset can take the fun out of the things we set out to do for fun. As a matter of fact, an overly serious, overly critical attitude can take the fun out of anything, including our work, and it can also make us no fun to be around.
So, starting this Christmas season, and then hopefully continuing right through 2018 and beyond, why don’t we give ourselves and all the other people in our lives a break by being less critical and trying to have more fun.
That might sound like a cop-out, but I don’t think it is.
That’s because I believe the best way to have fun doing something is to do it as well as we can and to focus on the effort as much as the result.
Enjoy the holidays… and please be careful on the roads.