As I was driving to my last day of school Wednesday - that would be last day for this year, lest my students think that they are getting an early Christmas present in the manner of my retirement - I slowed down, as is my custom, and waved at the traffic guy standing in front of Sims Elementary School, which I drive past on my way to work each and every day.
It was cold and dark and drizzling rain, and yet there he was, waving his orange beacons and making sure that all the school bus drivers and moms and dads got their precious cargo delivered safely - and without driving their SUVs and minivans and school busses into one another. That's not an easy task, I might add.
As I waved, he waved back, just like he does each and every day, and smiled. When he did so, I was struck by a tiny twinge, an almost imperceptible twinge of what might be called guilt but could probably be more accurately described as regret.
"It's Christmas," I thought. "I should have gotten the traffic guy a gift."
Think about it. He stands out there day after day, doing a thankless job (I'm a teacher. I know about thankless jobs) and has kept me from getting stuck in traffic and crashing my car for at least 90 days this school year alone. I should have had some small token of my appreciation for him. I should have been prepared to roll down the window, hand him a brightly-wrapped package and said, "Merry Christmas."
It would have probably made his day. And it would probably have made mine.
But I didn't - and now the opportunity has passed.
We have all been scrambling around, harum-scarum, going from this function to that, buying gifts right and left, small and large, for all the people on the list that we just have to buy presents for, and many of us - surely to goodness I am not the only one - have probably forgotten a lot of people that we don't have to remember but should. Just because. Just because it is Christmas, and just because they serve us and take care of us all year long - often without an acknowledgement or a word of thanks.
I began thinking about the other folks who make my life easier and better through the year. We know about the police officers and soldiers and firefighters, of course - and the doctors and nurses and folks who are ever vigil, protecting us in ways that we don't even realize and always ready to serve us if the need arises - and certainly we should remember them, and not just at Christmas. But I wasn't really thinking about those folks yesterday. I was thinking about the folks who actively do something on my behalf, almost every day.
For instance, if you are holding a newspaper in your hand as you read this, chances are somebody brought it right to your door - or at least the mud puddle beside your door. Did you ever think about the job the paper carriers have to do? We print a paper every day (I know. Not counting Mondays) and every day somebody has to get up long before the sun to bring it to the homes of our subscribers.
Christmas Day? Got to deliver a paper. Thanksgiving? New Years? The Fourth of July? Robert E. Lee's birthday? Got to deliver a paper. And that "rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor gloom of night" thing that was created for mail carriers? It applies even more so to the paper folks because they don't get Sundays and federal holidays off.
And speaking of mail carriers, they are pretty steady, too, and catch a lot of grief, especially this time of year. I don't know what the policy is for giving gifts to the postman - or postwomen - although I heard a great joke about providing one with breakfast once, but there must be some way to show our appreciation without running afoul of the Postmaster General.
There are so many other folks that have helped me out on a regular basis: the good looking waitress at City Slickers who always keeps my glass full of sweet tea with lots of ice; the friendly lady behind the counter at the dry cleaners who always makes sure there is just the right amount of starch in my shirts; the pharmacist who always gets my prescriptions ready at moment's notice and, as far as I know, has never substituted the wrong drug; the person at the paper who checks my spelling and punctuation so that my readers won't suspect that I am a total idiot when it comes to grammar. (The thoughts and opinions are my fault.)
I am sure there are many others, and honesty compels me to admit that there may not be enough hours left in my schedule to take care of them appropriately this Christmas - but it's not too early to make it my first resolution for next year.
And the traffic guy at Sims will be the first gift I buy.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.