The great man hauled himself up to the podium to accept his lifetime achievement award. He waited for the applause to die down. Then he spoke:
“As I stand before you today, I can’t help but think back to a Christmas years ago, when I was a boy in New York’s Hudson Valley. An average kid who enjoyed typical things like shooting basketball in my parents’ driveway, I was content to drive a snowmobile repeatedly around the house in winter, and even though I didn’t play the trombone, many mornings I’d be out there in the front yard blaring away on one, just to let the neighbors know I was alive.
But that Christmas, when I was eight years old, everything changed. My grandma called to say she’d mailed me a card with money in it, to spend anyway I wanted. I checked the mailbox. Where was the card?
Christmas came – no card. The next day, and the day after that – still no card, no money. My mom had promised we could go shopping at Game Stop or Wal Mart for a new video game Grand Theft Auto V I’d had my eye on.
I cut through our weird musician neighbors’ yard as I sometimes did and could’ve sworn I saw a red envelope on their dining table. Had the mailman brought them my card by mistake? And if so, why were they holding on to it – were they that wrapped up in their own lives that they couldn’t make the short trek across the yard to bring my card over? Maybe they were still pissed off at my dad for the stuff he took from their yard a few years ago, I don’t know.
Mom drove us into town to go shopping but without Grandma’s Christmas money, I didn’t have anything to spend, so while mom and dad were in Game Stop, I just kicked a can down Main Street, bored. This was the worst Christmas ever.
And then I saw it – the public library. I’d never even noticed the building before. I went in. There were books in there. I grabbed everything I could carry: Seuss, Silverstein; Chaucer, Voltaire; Orwell; Sedaris, Saunders. I started reading and discovered a world beyond the little town I lived in, beyond the sleazy Miami of Grand Theft Auto I. II. III and IV. A world I wanted to explore, and make better. When the card from Grandma showed up that afternoon, I gave the money to charity.
And when I saw the muddy footprints from our neighbors’ yard to our mailbox, I forgave the neighbor man and lady. In fact, I wish I could thank them for taking their sweet time bringing my card over. It changed the course of my life.”