I was six years old and Christmas was days away. Santa was going to bring me everything I'd ask for.
But. As I reviewed the year, I found instances that could land me on the naughty list.
I'd hit my little sister. I'd lied to mom. I'd told my first-grade class that I had read Where the Red Fern Grows, but I'd just skimmed it to look smart. I'd eaten the last cookie - several times. I watched a TV show my parents had banned.
Things were not looking good.
But then I'd remembered last Christmas; the year I had been an obnoxious 5-year-old - and Santa had still given me a Madame Alexander doll. And I recalled my little sister had gotten presents, even though she'd broken my favorite doll and lied about it. Santa had given her presents anyway.
I surveyed my friends. Had any of them ever received coal? Had their siblings?
Not a single person - and there were some that definitely should have been given that lump of coal.
When Christmas morning finally arrived, I found lots of beautiful packages under the tree for me from Santa. And it happened every year after that, even when I was a teenager and TRULY should have received coal.
Maybe the message of Christmas is that we're already worthy. We're already good enough.
Most of us are doing the best we can in this crazy world, and sometimes that looks amazing and sometimes it looks shitty. What if we're loved either way? What if the real Christmas magic is not that the slate is wiped clean, but that there is no slate?
If Santa decides your sister deserves presents or your cousin gets a gift or your parents get some Christmas love from Kris Kringle, who are we to override that value? Is it possible to drop the judgment?
I've definitely spent the last few years "bad-othering" as Tara Brach calls it - labeling those who don't agree with me as "bad" or "evil". It takes an almost superhuman effort to view them through the lens of love, but if I squint and really focus, I can almost see their worthiness. Maybe that's the real Christmas magic.
Peri Kinder is the owner of Life & Laughter Coaching. She's a happiness coach, yoga and meditation instructor, and award-winning freelance writer.