Happy Thanksgiving (or “I’ll knock you the f#%$ out!”)
A few days before Thanksgiving, a middle-aged man who looked as if he was enrolled in a mall Santa Claus training program, took a swig from an amber Budweiser bottle and shouted at me, “I’ll knock you the fuck out!”
I understand, there’s a lot to unpack in that sentence.
Here’s some context:
Moments after my son, Chase, scored the opening goal in the semi-final game of a city-wide soccer tournament, Budweiser Santa stepped out onto the field and shouted to his team, “Hurt them. Make them cry,” and then pointed towards my son’s team.
If you ever find yourself convinced humanity is doing just fine and has nicely evolved from the angry hordes that stomped on the stone steps of the Roman Coliseum–go to a youth sporting event.
Deep down in my domesticated dad bod, beneath a swirl of Peanut M&M’s and a calm lake of unsweetened iced tea and the empathy and the bigheartedness and the sincerity lies a dadanimal. A dog. A wild beast that like any parent who–witnesses their child being threatened– is quick to bark and if necessary is willing to bite.
Budweiser Santa also didn’t know that only a few feet from him stood a disabled man, who’s cruel brain disease knocks him down– literally– everyday. And BS didn’t know that DM has conditioned himself to get up–literally– everyday.
BS didn’t know DM’s right ankle is held together by screws, his right knee a bramble of torn ligaments, his right hand hammered with arthritis, his left and right rotator cuffs shredded, his brain eroding like spoiled fruit, and how everyday for DM is a challenge to move towards tomorrow.
BS didn’t know DM wrote two books, both of which explore love and compassion and tenderness and does not condone violence of any kind.
BS didn’t know DM has a blog in which over 800 worldwide readers receive his weekly letter every Friday morning.
BS didn’t know DM writes weekly letters to his readers to comfort, entertain, motivate, and help them become better versions of themselves.
BS didn’t know his threat would inspire DM.
And BS didn’t know DM has stood quietly on enough youth sports sidelines and watched parents talk like children who are unaware of consequences and civility and lack curiosity and how, his instruction for children to hurt other children in a world already marred by violence and anger and hatred, scratched the universal wound that lies tender inside of all of us.
Like a true, articulate Philadelphian I shouted, “Yo…shut up.”
Budweiser Santa turned toward me, spread this arms wide as if he was summoning Rudolf and the rest of the hard-hoofed gang and said, “I’m going to knock you the fuck out.”
Bad Santa? Maybe. To encourage violence at a kid’s soccer game I’m pretty sure is wrong. And to use such harsh language and vivid imagery in front of spectating families also seems wrong.
But who am I? I’m not nor do not want the responsibility of deeming right from wrong. And my caricature of Budweiser Santa was unfair and immature and I apologize. I’m sure he’s a generous and jolly fellow with an affinity for peppermint who I should get to know better.
My goal this holiday season is to be more open minded. Like Walt Whitman (whose long, white beard may have qualified him to be in the mall Santa training program as well) once said, “Be curious, not judgmental.”
I think we would agree that youth sport sidelines–as well as the world beyond–needs more curiosity and less of the demagogical belief of, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Our lives would be more peaceful, less violent if the world was simply more curious and less judgmental.
But humans are hardwired to judge. Because judgement is easy, curiosity is hard.
Curiosity takes effort and patience. Curiosity, rather than judgment, eases tensions, opens conversations, values individuals, and gifts new perspectives.
Now, if you’re curious, the man who threatened me walked away, no other words were exchanged between us, and I never heard from him again.
Am I a hero? No.
Am I an Ordinary Hero (which is on sale now exclusively on Amazon)? It depends who you ask.
This Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season, I wish you comfort and love and peace. You have shared this blog and my books with others, and have made 2024 a year of great personal and professional growth. And so for you, I’m thankful.
I also wish that you and I have the courage to be more curious.
Ask questions. Learn something new. Have the wild wonderment of a child standing in a red-roped line outside of JC Penny waiting to see Santa Claus. And that you and I have the audacity to get to know someone who just threatened to knock us out.
PS: My son’s team won the game that night and then went on to win the city championship.
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to you and yours!
Big Announcement…Dramatic drum roll…
On 12/1/23 Ordinary Hero is going worldwide. Yes, OH will be available for global distribution, which means you can grab a copy at your local bookstore or library even if your local bookstore or library is in Peru.
And also 12/1/23...(dramatic drum roll again) Ordinary Hero will be available in hardback (see above)…just in time for the holidays. So you can be a holiday hero and gift everyone on your list a hardback copy of Ordinary Hero.
6 Reasons Why You Should Buy Ordinary Hero Right Now:
1. It’s about everyday life and the wisdom waiting for you in the pearls of your routine.
2.Charles Swchab would probably agree that in today’s market, Ordinary Hero is a sound investment.
3.If you enjoy my first book, Bedtime Stories for the Living, you’ll love this book.
4. The book will make you laugh, cry, appreciate life, offer comfort, and help you overcome challenges.
5. The book includes stories about my dog Maggie May. I recently read a New York Times article that explains why books about dogs are wildly popular. People love to read about dogs and their joy, comfort, and curiosity.
6. You should pre-order Ordinary Hero for just $.99 now and on 11/1 you should probably buy a few paperbacks, and when the books arrive, go to the local dog park and hand them out to dog owners and tell them there are stories in there about dogs. If you do that, you’ll be the coolest cat at the dog park.
Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. I have ataxia and though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.
November Book Promos for You:
Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:
Recent letters you may enjoy:
Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.