One cold December night our family had the privilege of spending time with two children from a foreign land. My brother had befriended a classmate, David, who had moved with his family from Israel to America. David and his little sister ate dinner with us one night and afterwards attended our church’s annual Christmas party for kids. They seemed to enjoy it.
Later that evening we dropped the two beautiful children off at their house, their big brown eyes wide with excitement from the night’s festivities. Their sweet mother stood in her driveway thanking us profusely in broken English for letting her children hang out with us. As my mom turned to leave she paused as if a light bulb of awareness suddenly came on, a tiny voice letting her know that some sort of disclaimer needed to be made.
She turned back to the Hebrew mom still standing and waving in the driveway. “By the way, I really didn’t think about this before…but I hope it’s okay. We had hot dogs for supper tonight. Your kids loved them. I buy the inexpensive kind so they probably don’t have much pork in them at all, your family being Jewish and everything.” So after dropping Hiroshima, she continued by immediately delivering Nagasaki . “Oh, and we took your kids to church, and they sat on Santa’s lap. They also sang Christmas carols.” She basically couldn’t have potentially offended them more if she would have replaced David’s yarmulke with a Santa hat and handed him a basket of Easter eggs to replace his dreidel.
I like to imagine in my mind that the next day as David’s family hightailed it on the first available flight back to Israel that security guards arrested my mom as she chased the plane down on the runway holding a box full of Jimmy Dean sausage and American flags, something to remember us by.
My mom meant no offense, and I truly don’t think any was taken, but when she got back in the car that night she thought for a minute and then let out the tiniest of laughs. Then, slowly, as the scope of what just happened fully hit her, her laughter picked up until she was in full-blown crying mode. And I was right behind her. My mom has always found it easy to laugh at herself, and from times like this I learned two important lessons. First, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Second, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, laugh often, and laugh so hard that you cry.