A Doug's Life: Recognizing the True Meaning of Christmas

There we were, standing in front of the Carnes family's "MaryChrisMess" house on Calle Pompeii, when it hit me.

I was holding my 2-year-old grandson, Cameron, and looking at a fascinating miniature village built into the front of the Carnes home. There were festive miniature houses, villagers, carnival rides, skaters, even a drive-in theatre with a real movie playing on a small screen. An electric train chugged its way through the village, back and forth from one end of the long display to the other.

I had been there the night before, gathering information and photos for this website, but it hadn't quite been the same. That time, I was so concerned with the big picture, I hadn't noticed all the little treasures, each holding their own special meaning. This time, my eyes followed the path of the train and studied the smiles on the faces of those tiny figurines.

I let my imagination go to work. I remembered the electric train set I had as a boy and the fun I had watching it. Then I watched little Cameron's face, which lit up as his eyes took in the entire scene. I smiled as he giggled every time the train hit the end of the track and bounced back the other way.

Then I turned and looked all around me in the Carnes' driveway. Everywhere I looked, friends and neighbors laughed, hugged and exchanged greetings. A firepit surrounded by chairs welcomed appreciative visitors. Mary Carnes snapped photos of each guest -- many of whom left canned goods as donations for a local charity. Inside, her husband Chris served visitors soup and meatballs and thanked them for stopping by.

Suddenly, I realized once again what I probably always have known, but too often forget:

This is what Christmas is all about.

It's about people like Chris and Mary Carnes, who open up their home each night for a month at Christmas time, just to give something back to the community they love. It's about the visitors who come to show their appreciation and help the less fortunate with their donations to Menifee Community Cupboard.

It's about people like Sherry Durado, who recently opened her Sun City home to visitors with a similar display for two weekends earlier this month. It's about people like Linda Denver, a Menifee resident who works all year on community service projects, then plays Mrs. Claus for the little ones at Christmas time.

And it's about people like Cpt. Jesse Karr, who delivers care packages to Marines in Afghanistan while his parents and friends back home in Menifee prepare more supplies to ship overseas.

People have different opinions on what Christmas is really about. In fact, some don't recognize Christmas at all. To be politically correct, we are told, we are to wish others "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I happen to be one who believes we can celebrate Christ's birth, declare his belief to others, and still respect the beliefs of all those around him. Isn't that why we live in America?

OK, I'm jumping off the soap box now. All I'm trying to say is, we can all get along as friends and neighbors and respect each other, whether you believe in Jesus Christ; acknowledge Santa Claus; celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or simply the winter solstice; or believe in none of the above.

No matter what you do or don't believe in, you have the capacity to care for others. If nothing else, this time of year is a reminder of the blessings we have and the ability we have to bless others.

If you doubt this, watch the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life." Or visit the Carnes house (thanks, Mary, for taking the photo of us shown below).

Or just pause a moment to look around you at this special time of year.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all, no matter what your situation or beliefs. Have a great weekend, give your loved ones a hug, and do something kind for someone else.

It really is a great feeling.


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