WALK IN OUR SHOES
A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century
© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
Jack was ticked off with the hypocrisy of the world! He was angry and frustrated with all the different religions claiming they were the one and the only way to some higher order or afterlife. In his opinion, most people couldn’t manage the life they had now!
It was Christmas Eve and Jack sat at home, alone. He had refused the traditional invitation to Rebecca and Ian’s home for holiday festivities. Who did they think they were––Rebecca was Jewish; Ian was a Christian. And they had invited Anwar, a Moslem, and his wife Angela who was a Greek Orthodox––mixed up bunch in his opinion.
Jack’s thoughts turned to Carol’s last phone call. Their friends had no idea they’d separated…
“Hello, Carol,” Jack answered coolly, not caring for her feelings.
“Rebecca called and asked if we were joining them tonight. They have something special planned.”
“Oh, Carol darling, are you asking me for a date? I thought you couldn’t stomach the sight of me!” Jack retorted sarcastically. “In fact, I believe the words you used as you slammed out of the house last week, were that I could rot somewhere warm, and as far as you were concerned if you ever saw me again, it would be too soon!”
“Jack, it’s Christmas.”
“Bah humbug on Christmas! Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“It used to. I’d really like to go Jack––with you…I do miss you…maybe we can still work this out…”
“You’re the one who left, Carol.”
“I know,” she paused. “Will you reconsider and come?”
“What shall I tell them when they ask where you are?”
“Whatever you want. I don’t care about any of them; they’re just a bunch of phonies. How can a group of people who can’t even marry their own kind presume to understand and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas?”
“Do you know, Jack?”
“I really don’t care!” The conversation had ended there.Jack poured another rye and flopped down on the couch. He began flipping through the T.V. channels. Nothing but Christmas shows––songs of glad tidings, families pretending to love one another, Christmas cheers. Oh, now here was someone he could relate to––Ebenezer Scrooge––a man, like himself, who knew Christmas was just a bunch of hogwash.
Jack stretched out on the couch: “Well Ebenezer, how say we have a drink together and get to know each other better. We’re a lot alike, you and I…”
What the…where was he? Jack saw Ian coming toward him, but he walked right past him as though he weren’t there.
“Anwar, so glad you could make it!” Ian slapped Anwar on the back and handed him a glass of punch. “Rebecca’s concoction. She won’t tell me what’s in it, but it does go down nicely.” The two friends laughed.
Jack reached for a glass: “Don’t mind if I do,” he said, but his hand went right through the stem.
“No-one one can see you, Jack.”
Jack turned and could not believe his eyes. “Who, or should I say, what the heck are you?”
“I am the Caliph of Consciousness. I am here to show you the error of your ways. Not all on earth is lost.”
“Huh! You must not watch the news!”
The Caliph pointed across the room. “Look there…your wife.”
Carol was sitting on the couch, between Rebecca and Angela. She was crying.
“It’s okay, Carol, Jack will come around,” Rebecca said.
“He’s just going through a rough time,” Angela added.
“But he has been so bitter lately, he hates everyone!” Carol said. “I didn’t want to leave, but I just can’t live with this Jack; I want the old one back.”
The Caliph pointed over to where Ian and Anwar stood talking. Their faces had taken on a serious look.
“I can’t understand what has happened to Jack,” Ian was saying. “He used to be such an upbeat guy.”
Anwar nodded. “Yeah, but lately he is so angry about all the wars and what he believes are hypocrisies in the world. A couple months ago I heard he blew up at work because someone’s point of view on religion differed from his.”
“I didn’t think Jack was that religious,” Ian said.
“He’s not,” Anwar informed. “He just likes to argue about it. He has no real clue about what we believe.”
“If truth be told,” Ian began, “he was pretty upset when you and Angela got married. He confided to me that he liked you okay enough, but you should have wed one of your own kind.”
Anwar laughed. “He mentioned something similar to me when you married Rebecca!”
“No kidding!” Ian joined the laughter. “Well, perhaps Carol would better off without him. She’s clearly not his kind…never has a bad word to say about anyone, no matter their race, or place of worship.” Ian checked his watch. “Guess we better get going if we are going to make the show on time.”
Jack watched as his friends, and his wife put their coats on, and then head out the door. “Where are they going?” he asked.
“Do you care?”
“I didn’t realize I was that bad; Ian and Anwar are my best friends.”
“Ah, therein lies the problem…they were your best friends and you used to be theirs, but for a long time now you have not respected them for whom they are, or for whom they married. You set yourself up as judge and jury of their lives, and then decided while you were at it, you should tell the rest of the world what was wrong with it as well!” the Caliph admonished. “It is time to re-examine your thinking before you lose everything.”
“You’ve already almost lost Carol, but it appears she still loves you, at least whom you used to be…you heard her.” The Caliph began to fade.
“Where are you going?” Jack shouted. “How can I turn all this around?”
“I am only your conscience; another will show you more…” the Caliph was gone.
Jack looked around and realized he was floating around the ceiling of the Sanderson Centre. He felt something brush against his arm.
“Who are you?” Jack asked, not returning a salutation.
“I am the Rabbi of Rights.”
“Why are we on the ceiling?”
“The view and sound are superb up here,” the Rabbi chuckled. “Oh look, there are your friends and Carol.”
Jack looked down. He noticed the empty seat beside Carol. She looked sad. Then he detected one of his former teachers from Brantford Collegiate walking up to the microphone…
“Welcome everyone,” Mr. Blanc began, “The senior drama class of BCI decided to do something different this year. They have produced a play in which the main religions of the world are depicted living in harmony. The play was written and directed by three of our own students, each one of them representing one of the religions. Without further ado, I present to you, ‘WALK IN OUR SHOES’.
“Like the name of the play, Jack?” the Rabbi asked.
“Never mind … just watch.”
Jack observed in fascination as the students presented faith from different religious perspectives. He noticed how attentive the audience was, and that many of the people were dabbing the corners of their eyes.
“I had no idea about the similarities in these three religions.” Jack turned to the Rabbi. “I guess everyone has the right to believe in their own way without being persecuted.”
“Good observation Jack; now what are you going to do? You have burned a lot of bridges with your prejudice and anger toward your friends, and your wife?”
Jack was feeling downright remorseful now. “What can I do, Rabbi? How do I even face my friends, especially now I know how they feel about me? As for Carol, she deserves better than me!”
“Why don’t you give Carol and your friends the right to decide if they want you back in their lives?” the Rabbi was fainting away.
“Where are you going? What am I to do now?” Jack called out.
“There is another to show you that…”
Jack was lying in a graveyard. He brushed the snow off the flat stone. The only words on it were ‘Jack Henry – May 1978 to December 2020’. No beloved husband of, son of, friend of…no one had even cared enough to mark the day of his birth or death!
Jack looked up. “Who are you?”
“My name is Peter. I am the disciple who denied my Lord when he most needed me––remember.”
Jack did. He’d attended church a long time ago, at Christmas and Easter. He also remembered Jesus forgave Peter and had instructed him to build the Christian church.
“All is not lost Jack,” Peter pointed to the grave. “This does not have to be. You have the power to change it. Follow me.” Peter held out his hand. Jack found himself back at Ian and Rebecca’s house, just as his friends and Carol were about to sit down to a meal.
Jack saw everyone join hands and noticed each one moving their lips.
“They are all giving thanks for the food God has provided,” Peter mentioned. “Each in their own way, yet all as one.”
Jack watched as, after the meal, they gathered around the fireplace in the den and exchanged gifts. He noticed the brave face Carol was putting on.
“There are tears in her heart,” Peter said. “Only you can wipe them away.”
“I don’t think she will ever want to see me again after how I treated her,” Jack cried. “As for my friends…” Jack buried his head in his hands. “Oh, what a fool I have been…oh what a fool…”
“God bless us, everyone, Mr. Scrooge,” a child’s voice penetrated Jack’s consciousness. He opened his eyes and saw Ebenezer skipping joyously down a snowy street, a crippled boy on his shoulder.
Jack glanced at his watch. How could this be; it was still 6:00. There was time if he hurried––if they would open the door to him. Jack dressed and headed out for Rebecca and Ian’s house. He hesitated at their door.
“Go ahead; ring the bell,” Jack heard a voice say. He turned and saw Carol. He opened his mouth to apologize, but she placed her finger to his lips. “Later, my love, it is enough that you are here,” she smiled.
“Jack…Carol…so glad you could make it,” Rebecca opened the door. “Anwar and Angela just arrived, as well.”
Ian was checking his watch. “We must get going to the Sanderson; we don’t want to miss this show. I hear it is the best one the BCI senior drama class has ever performed!”
“What was the name of it again?” Angela asked.
“WALK IN OUR SHOES,” Jack answered.