This is going to sound crazy, but last night I was visited by ghosts.
The first one tapped me on the shoulder close to 3 a.m.
"Wake up Mr. Lombardi,” he said. “I’m your Ghost of Christmas Past. We have places to go.”
As I cinched my robe and put on my slippers, I asked him, “This seems early. Shouldn’t we be doing this on Christmas Eve?”
He muttered something about being short-staffed and overbooked and grabbed me by the elbow. We vanished into thin air.
When I opened my eyes, I was standing in my childhood home on Christmas morning.
Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” played on the radio. Our tree was smothered in tinsel and presents were piled underneath.
I watched myself as a boy shaking a long, rectangular gift box.
Young Larry ripped off the wrapping paper to reveal a toy version of the Winchester Model 1892 rifle that Chuck Connors carried in The Rifleman.
One of the greatest Christmas presents of all time.
I recalled the excitement of that moment. It was just a toy rifle, but it felt like I’d just scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.
My arms went up. I did a little dance. All was right in the world.
“You seem happy,” the ghost said.
“You bet. That gun was a big deal for me,” I said. "But is there something else I should be learning here?"
He snapped his fingers and I appeared back in my bedroom.
I figured it was pointless to get back in bed, so I shuffled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
As expected, the Ghost of Christmas Present was waiting for me by the fridge. We didn’t have to travel far. He twirled me and POOF!, we vanished and then reappeared in the exact same spot, a few days earlier.
It was a chilly Sunday afternoon. My wife was preparing dinner and I sat in the living room.
The ghost got sarcastic.
“Would it have killed you to help out in the kitchen?” he said.
“It’s better for everyone that I didn’t,” I replied.
It’s a Wonderful Life was on TV.
“Great flick. But you know it’s not a Christmas movie, right?” he said.
“It’s not?” I asked.
“Nope. It’s actually a cautionary tale about what happens when greed drives economic development,” he explained. “It takes place during Christmas, but it’s more about how to deal with cranky board members, residential development and why it always pays to treat your customers like human beings.”
“Okay,” I said. “If you say so.”
“Watch it again,” he said. “You’ll see.”
“That’s it?” I asked. "What's the big lesson?"
He snapped and I was back, alone in my kitchen in the middle of the night.
My cup of coffee was cold. Before I could warm it up, the doorbell rang.
“Hey there,” he said. “I’m your Ghost of Christmas Future.”
“You want to come in?"
“No thanks,” he said. “I’m actually running very late for my next meeting, so I was hoping we could just get right to the point.”
“No problem,” I said.
“Instead of taking you 50 years into the future, I’m just going to tell you that in 2071, all of your relatives and friends still come together to celebrate the holidays. Their homes are filled with love and they all remember you fondly. Blah, blah, blah… the end.”
“That’s it?” I asked.
“Oh, there's also a bridge connecting the mainland to Corolla,” he said. “So just keep doing what you’re doing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!”
And with that he was gone.
I was left scratching my head trying to piece together the lessons of the night and couldn’t make much sense of it all. What was I supposed to take away from it all? What did all of this mean?
And then, a knock at the door. Another ghost?
Yes, but this one had a clipboard and was wearing khakis.
“Hello Mr. Lombardi,” he said. “Would be interested in taking a brief survey about your experience tonight?”
“Why not,” I said.
“Based on your experience with the Three Ghosts of Christmas, how likely are you to recommend Christmas Ghost Visitations? Very likely? Somewhat likely? Or not at all likely?”
Then it hit me.
“You know what? Not AT ALL likely, and I’ll give you three reasons why. First, I was enjoying my sleep. Second, that middle guy was a little bit snarky. And third? Because my coffee got cold.”
The guy at my door looked disappointed.
“Look, I appreciate what you tried to do. You want to help people understand the real miracle and meaning of Christmas. As far as I’m concerned, the REAL Christmas miracle happened a long time ago, away in a manger. The goal of every Christmas celebration since then is SIMPLE: enjoy your friends and family, be generous with what you have, and be grateful for what you’ve got. That’s it. That’s everything.”
“But would you say you learned anything from the visits?” he asked.
“Sure. I learned that sometimes you DO get exactly what you wish for, It’s a Wonderful Life can teach you how to be a better business owner, and Christmas spirit lives forever."
"Okay. Well, thank you sir. Have yourself a merry little Christmas," he said.
As he faded away and floated off into the night, I waved goodbye and shouted, "God bless us every one."
And that was that. I told you it would sound crazy.
Thanks for reading. Have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season!
Director of Economic Development