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An Actors Christmas

He was alone for Christmas, he had to realize that. It was a first, it had almost happened before, but at the last moment something changed, and he found himself home for Christmas. This year was going to be different, it was Christmas Eve, and home was a few states away. Emil Clement was in New York City without any way to get out.

His friend was supposed to fly him home via private plane, until sickness grounded him. There was no time to get a flight out, now this husband, father, and grandfather of three was stuck in New York. In some ways it was his own fault, accepting to do a Christmas play on Broadway during December, you ran the risk.

Sarah had encouraged him to do it. “Honey, you’ve always wanted a Tony and been nominated twice, maybe this will be the one.” So he listened to his wife’s advice and had taken the play Nicholas Artic Craftsman happily. It was not her fault, she was just echoing what he had hoped she’d say.

Now, he had a choice as to what to do. Stay in his hotel room and sulk, or take his role to the street. Emil knew there were plenty of Santa’s on the corner, so he looked for a more ingenious way to play the aforementioned Kringle. He quickly discarded several ideas until he hit on one that made him smile.

There was a little Church across the street from the Frawley Theatre, perhaps, just perhaps. It was neither a Sunday nor a Wednesday, Christmas Eve fell on Thursday this year, so it was a long shot. When he walked over though, there was a car in the parking lot. A man was just getting ready to leave.

“Can I help you sir? I’m Pastor Rodriguez, I was just picking up some things before heading home to the family.” Emil quickly explained what he wanted to do, and if the Pastor could suggest someone. He said that he could, but was Emil sure that he would not rather be his guest for Christmas dinner.

“That’s very kind of you Pastor, but this year God has blessed me to be outside of my normal element on the celebration of His birth. I would very much like to do something on behalf of His service, and something outside of my element as well.”

The Pastor suggested a small diner about two blocks away called Haggerty’s. “On Christmas Eve Hannah Haggerty and her kids feed anyone that comes in whether they have money or not. Most don’t, it’s a great blessing, but she could probably use a little blessing herself. If you could do something for them, and tell them I sent you. That way she’ll know it’s not a scam.”

Emil smiled and thanked him, then headed off to make plans. An hour later he showed up at the diner in full regalia, with his “elves” in tow. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Haggerty is it? May I speak with you a moment? I assure you I’m not senile, though I may look it. Pastor Rodriguez sent me, I come bearing gifts.”

The actor said all this before Mrs. Haggerty got a chance to comment because her face had said a lot. Mainly her expression went from “what does this conman want”, to “this dude is crazy”, to “oh Pastor Rodriguez sent him, he must be harmless.” Instead, she quietly nodded, then smiled.

“Thank you so much. Yes please, I’m not sure what you had in mind, but if Pastor says it must be okay. I’m Hannah, this is my son Randy, his wife Eloise, my daughter Lisa, and her husband John. Can we do anything for you?”

Emil quickly thanked her, and asked for only three things. A small table, a good corner, and a glass of water. In a short time, he and his “elves”, a few actors he knew that had no families themselves who he paid handsomely, set up. When ready, Emil addressed the crowd with the little portable sound system.

“Fellow Christmas travelers, like you I find myself away from hearth and home on this Christmas Eve. Rather than reflect dismally on my circumstances, I choose to be thankful, and to hopefully share a little Christmas spirit with each of you if you’d allow me to.”

Emil began by reciting different Christmas pieces he knew, starting with The Night Before Christmas. In between, he would hand out small gifts that his “elves” had bought and quickly tucked in gift bags. The baritone had a beautiful voice, and would intermix it all with a Christmas carol or two. Having played him in a biopic years earlier, Emil did a pretty good Crosby, and included a little of it in his White Christmas.

Every forty five minutes or so, he would take a fifteen minute break and mingle with the crowd. Some recognized him, most didn’t. His star was waning somewhat, having appeared in a few hit movies, a sitcom or two, and earlier than all of that a hit science fiction show a couple of decades earlier. Emil had not been in anything big in the last five years so his ego wasn’t expecting a boost.

The ones that did recognize him though were not so much awe struck as they had a sense of closeness. Some had grown up watching his performances, and they viewed him a bit like an old family friend, or at least familiar acquaintance. They thanked him for what he was doing, gave their condolences for what he was missing, and requested a specific piece for him to perform.

All of this was pretty much the same until he met someone he had not expected to meet, the woman he knew as Ann Glover, his cousin. “Annie girl, Annie is that you? What, how, it’s been thirty years.” He looked at her for a minute, almost sure his eyes were wrong.

She had a look on her face as if to say, “Do I run away, or do I stay?” In the end she chose to stay, “Hello Emil, it’s good to see you. I think it’s been more like forty years, but you were always kind.”

Annie didn’t look very different, except her hair was white. Same youthful appearance, simple but elegantly dressed, and a happy smile on her face. This was not a lady who lived in tragedy, but someone that knew true happiness. That was the part Emil couldn’t understand.

“I’m happy Emil, I truly am. I wrote to you but I’m sure that your agent never sent you the letter.” He assured her he had not gotten it, but wished he had. This time she read his face, and began to explain what all had happened.

“Most parents don’t want you to marry an actor. Mom and Dad were lifelong actors, and they could have handled me marrying anyone except who I did. When they gave me a choice, I chose love, and Robert and I were happy for fifty two years. He’s gone now, but his son followed in his footsteps, he’s a Pastor now.”

Emil laughed, “His name isn’t Rodriguez by any chance is it, I never knew Bob’s last name. I liked him Annie. I never agreed with what Aunt Sally and Uncle Darren did, refusing to approve of a man because of his Faith.”

Annie smiled. “Yes, I’m Annie Rodriguez, do you know Robert Jr? Is that why you’re here? I don’t blame Mom and Dad, they were adamant against religion of any kind. They told me if I chose Robert and his God, I was walking away from my family.”

“Had it just been Robert, I think I would have stayed, but they missed something. I didn’t just fall in love with Robert, I fell in love with his God too. I reached out to them, and they mellowed in their later years some, but I’m sorry we all lost touch.”

Emil hugged his cousin. “I met your son today, though I didn’t know it was my nephew. Annie, there’s so much to tell you. You know early on I had my issues, Sarah introduced me to Faith at my lowest point, and it changed me.”

“I’ve not been the same man since, that’s part of why I’m here. I felt this was a God moment to do something for someone else. I had no idea He was planning on something for me in the whole process, but that’s His way.”

They both smiled, knowing first hand that God far exceeds your expectations. The cousins made plans for Emil to join them the next day, after he was done with his mission. For tonight, he continued his performances, ending with a beautiful rendition of Luke 2 from memory.

“ For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. My friends, I’m one of those who needed a Savior, and I was in no shape to reach out to Him. When He found me, I had a cocaine addiction on top of an alcohol problem. I had just ruined a million dollar chance, and had no hope of getting it back.”

“Desperation made me listen to my wife’s request to go with her to Church. I had almost lost her, so I was willing, scared to death, and not very hopeful. There was something in the way the Minister spoke to me that night, and I’ll never forget what he said. He said, He was wrapped in pieces of cloth, so He could bind up the pieces of your life. There’s hope, if you’re not too proud to ask for help.”

“I was a lot of things, and definitely arrogant, but at that moment I was more desperate than anything else. I found hope, and it has sustained me through the ups and downs of life. On this Christmas Eve, I’m not a Pastor, but I would like to offer you one thing more, a prayer. Unlike the other pieces, this is not rehearsed.”

“Lord I’m out of place tonight by my own account, but not by Yours. You knew I’d be in a strange place on Christmas Eve, but You also knew someone else may be too. Tonight I ask that they will find the same peace You gave an out of work actor who was slowly dying from his own desires and addictions in Jesus Name Amen.”

When he opened his eyes, tears filled them, and he was not alone. That night, though they didn’t all vocalize it, more souls met The Savior, and an actor far from home understood why he was in the city. His “elves” experienced more than an acting job that night, as they asked him about his conversion on the taxi ride home.

Emil’s sleep was peaceful that night, but his mission was not over. Haggerty’s wasn’t open on Christmas Day, it was one of the two days a year Hannah took off, or rather didn’t open the restaurant. She was up early cooking for her family when the messenger dropped off a special gift for each one, and a card.

“Mrs Haggerty, thank you for giving me one of the best Christmas’ I ever experienced. I missed my family deeply, but God Who always answered prayers, gave me the gift of family in an unexpected land. May you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas just as special as the one you gave me.”

Emil spent the morning volunteering at a local shelter, playing Santa for the kids and adults alike, passing out more gifts with his “elves”. Finally when he was done he gave Tom Cunningham and Susan Evans a check, and a gift a piece.

They thanked him, but wanted one thing more. “Mr. Clement, what you said last night was all that on the up and up, or were you playing to the crowd? Were you saying what you thought they needed, or was it as bad as you let on?”

His voice got very serious, not in a rebuke, but in a soft firm way. “My wife had divorce papers in her hand. Sarah said you either go with me tonight, or you don’t go anywhere with me ever again. I didn’t go to the altar because of her, and she didn’t tear up the papers right away.”

“That took a year. When she saw that I was really changed, we burned those papers on our next anniversary. We’ve shared many anniversaries since, and we thank God every moment that those papers were God’s letter of introduction to me.”

The two didn’t say much, but while Emil could tell their time with him was over, their time with Him wasn’t. He smiled and thought to himself. “Lord, You helped a ham like myself get passed me to see You, please help them to do the same.”

That afternoon, Emil found himself with family on Christmas. His cousin, her family, and a video call on Annie’s big screen that introduced Sarah, the kids, and all the grandkids to their cousins. Before the call ended, the youngest grandchild upstaged her Grandpa one more time.”

Adley, the youngest said “Grandpa, next time you play Santa, get a gps for the sleigh so you’ll get home in time.” They all laughed, and he agreed. Adley was too young to understand, but sometimes you have to miss home on Christmas.

Sometimes you have to play the role you are cast in, so that others can see The Star. After all, The Writer chose the role of a baby to introduce Himself to a world of sinners. You never know what will happen on an Actor’s Christmas.

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