We looked forward to it all week long as the weather in Savannah played tricks on us, running hot, running cold, running wet; with a massive burst of wind and rain on Tuesday that had people running for literal cover to keep from getting blown off the streets.
The it we looked forward to was the Savannah Striders Jingle Bell Jog, an informal gathering of running friends in downtown Savannah to jog in the dark wearing jingle bells and dressed in Christmas themed outfits, white topped Christmas socks from Big Lots and an assortment of blinking Christmas lights and bells from various drug stores throughout Savannah.
As the day progressed it seemed like the event would be rained out. The group was to meet at Satisfied Restaurant and go running downtown before heading back to eat.
At 5:45 one lone elf stood forlornly in the restaurant alcove on West Broughton Street looking up and down the road, hoping she would not be the only person to show up in costume and probably wishing the sun would set a little further to prevent all the stares from the people passing by wondering who that crazy lady was standing by herself outside the restaurant.
By six, a small gathering, some in business attire, some in running clothes, gathered outside on the street as a strong wind and a light intermittent mist began to fall as if to greet us as we arrived.
As runners strapped on jingle bells upstairs, the debates were swinging either way, to stay and eat or go and run.
We finally decided to run to City Market and back, or that was the plan. The plan was also to stay in a group and run slow and leave no elf behind, but when one elf lost a jingle bell and had to stop to tie her shoe back or trip on a loose bell, the group sprinted on without her until a man in black joined late and stayed with her until the group had to stop for a stop light and realized they were one elf short of a full pack and kindly waited for the two to catch up.
The man in black was Dr. Mark Manocha who discovered in the Enmark Bridge Run just three weeks ago that he had not one, but two defective heart valves, even though he had always been in perfect health and never suspected a thing until he woke up in the Intensive Care Unit wondering why he was there and was told he collapsed after the race.
The Striders were glad to see him back, though he was under doctor’s orders to run slow and not run past two miles.
Several runners decided to turn back as the mist began to become a drizzle and the wind spun past in multi-directional blasts threatening worse rain to come.
The high bluff at River Street protected runners from the worst of the wind, but the water in the Savannah river was bubbling and boiling as if some sea creature would pop out and devour River Street and the runners with it.
The red and white lights from the Westin and Convention Center did a good imitation of a giant Christmas tree as the die hard runners kept going to the grand stand area on River Street, then down the center of the road away from slick cobblestones and walked up the steep cobblestone ramp at the end toward Bay Street as runners greeted passersby with “Merry Christmas” greetings, often getting totally ignored, but frequently bringing smiles and Merry Christmas greetings back again, with some homeless people slapping high fives and grinning, somewhat comforted that they were not the only crazy people out running the street this Thursday night in the dark.
There were no more wardrobe mishaps and bell in hand, the left behind elf waved as her more socially adept friend called out “Merry Christmas” to a young couple who pretended we were a Klingon War Ship cloaked and therefore not visible to the human eye.
One wonders if they were anti-Christ or just bah hum bugs, but apparently they had many friends scattered about who also refused to make eye contact and pretended the runners did not exist.
The police were busy on River Street apparently investigating a crime and also walked past the oncoming runners as if they could not see them. Perhaps some people were just not in the Christmas spirit and no amount of bell ringing and friendly hellos could bring a smile out of them, but this did not stop the merry band from giving it their best effort and those that did smile and return their greetings made the whole run a lot more enjoyable experience.
The runners returned to the restaurant in little over 20 minutes in a warm cozy atmosphere overlooking Broughton Street, which was largely vacated as the rains began to pour in earnest and visions of the bubbling river and its hidden sea monsters marching down Broughton came to mind like some bad B rated SciFi movie as they attacked the city threatening to ruin Christmas one day before the Mayan calendar reset itself for a new century or some horrible cataclysmic event doomed us to an early death before we could unwrap presents making the Jewish the winners by celebrating Hanukkah one week early.
Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but it seems like a lot of people just are not in the Christmas spirit this year, maybe because of the goofy weather, or maybe the economy or the school shootings or just a feeling of having been there done that too many times to find it exciting and new again.
If you are not feeling in the Christmas mood this season, we encourage you to focus on the good things in life and to give back to the community and do something a little fun and silly.
It is easy to get depressed this time of year, especially if you have no family or close friends with whom to spend the holidays.
If you have yet to receive a Christmas card in the mail, no plate full of homemade goodies, no invitations to parties and can’t even afford to eat dinner out with friends, don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone and it isn’t your fault you got there, despite what the right wing Republicans say.
Christmas is one of those designer holidays, created so that people who lived in cold northern climates could have something to break up the monotony of long dark nights and short dreary days. Historians are pretty certain that Christ was not really born on December 25 and suspect he was almost four years old when the wise men finally caught up to him to hand him his presents, so kind of makes that long overdue plate of cookies not so depressing now, doesn’t it?
The season of Christmas is not so much about giving and receiving, so much as it is about doing things to help others, to bring a smile to someone’s face, to sympathize with someone who is going through rough times, to show someone you care and to be there for them when they need someone to talk to.
As I sit here typing this article the rain is coming down in sheets, gusting against the house…another wet Christmas in Savannah, but it didn’t ruin the jingle jog, it just made it all the more memorable and even though everyone sort of stood around afterward with their arms crossed, looking uncomfortable and not really knowing how to get the conversation going, it was still nice to meet with everyone and be a little silly and see Savannah at night with all the pretty shining lights.
If you have been dreading Christmas, are not socially adept at meet and greets and feel like your family is up for honors in the most dysfunctional group of humans on the planet, fear not, for the Lord is with thee, and rather than refuse to notice their existence, make an effort this year to try to say something nice, to ignore the bad stuff, high five the good stuff, pretend the mist and the rain are just liquid snow and just as pretty and easier to catch on the tongue than a drifting snowflake and be grateful that even though you feel like you don’t fit in among most humans on earth, you have a heavenly home waiting for you where you will be welcome with open arms, come rain, shine, snow, Christmas, Hanukkah or high water.
If you don’t make the effort to meet and greet people and just sit at home dreading social discomfort, you will miss out on the good moments, like meeting an old friend and finding out he is okay, seeing how the lights seem to sparkle more when the rain drifts pass them, watching the normally still waters boil with activity and slapping a high five with a homeless lady who greets you like a long lost friend instead of friends who seem to struggle to make eye contact with you and make you wonder if you have done something to displease them.
Life can be awkward. Dressing up like a green and red elf with bells on your feet and stressing over traffic jams and wondering whether you can find a parking spot or not, or getting there early and wondering if your friends are just playing a cruel joke on you to get you to stand on a public street in green tights and an elf hat looking silly is not the most comfortable of feelings, but you have to push through it and hang on to those good moments that make it all worth the effort.
Merry Christmas and if you see an awkward person standing around feeling like they don’t fit in, do a socially inept person a favor and go over and say hello to them and engage them in a conversation to help make them feel more at home and less like a stranger and thanks to those of you who already do this and encourage others to do the same.