A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ — But about that wearing white after Labor Day thing…

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been known to pass judgment from time to time when observing social faux pas. Like when I spot someone wearing white after Labor Day, flying the American flag in the rain, leaving Christmas lights up year-round — you know, the sorts of things that would appall Emily Post.

If only I would’ve heeded the words of Jesus and judged not, lest I be judged.

I bring this up because there’s a big wooden Santa Claus gracing the ledge in my entryway. Not because I’m getting a head start on Christmas decorating. But because he’s been up there since the day I first brought him home several years ago.

It all began innocently enough — I knew the ledge in question needed some decorating. With about eight feet of height to play with, whatever I found to decorate with needed to be B.I.G.

I started by adding a six-foot prelit Christmas tree with grand designs of decorating it according to the season. Once we finally hoisted it up, fluffed it out, plugged it in, and put away the big ladder — the regular ladder wasn’t tall enough — I realized the chances of me getting back up there to decorate it for any season were slim to none. Lights would be plenty, thank you very much. The only reason they’ll get turned on is that the outlet happens to be wired to a switch. And the switch is reachable without a ladder.

The tree hasn’t been a problem. For the most part, it blends right in because we’re accustomed to seeing trees year-round. Just step outside and you’ll see what I mean. But it seemed lonely up there on its own.

Fast forward a couple of years to a Black Friday trip to Hobby Lobby, where I found the perfect Pere Noel. About five feet tall and two-and-a-half feet wide at his widest, he was the perfect addition to the ledge. Resistance to temptation isn’t one of my strong suits. Plus, I had a 40 percent off coupon. I checked out and loaded that jolly old elf into the back of the SUV and brought him home. With Colton’s help, we raised him ever-so-carefully to the ledge where he took his rightful place by the tree as the quintessential finishing touch for the season’s decorations.

A few weeks later, the new year approached and the seasonal decorations went back into storage. Well, all except for Santa, who we’d promptly forgotten about.

I blame the whole out of sight, out of mind mentality. If the ledge wasn’t so high, I might tend to notice him more than a few times a year. If I used the front door more often, maybe Easter Santa, Halloween Santa and Santa for any holiday except Christmas would strike me as being out of place.

Yet here we are in October, and it clearly hasn’t bothered me for the last nine months. At this point, what’s three more? After all, Christmas decorations are already available for sale at a variety of stores, and Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas is just a few weeks away. Before long he’ll fit right in again.

Until then? Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone — and to refrain from judging others, lest you be judged.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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