The Most Forlorn Nativity Scene in the World

Not so long ago, I would have judged instantly a certain nativity scene that appears every season on a dead end street in one of the poorer places of rural Oregon. I would have seen these cracked plastic figurines, lighted and mold streaked, Mary and Joesph, the Three Wise Men, camels and barnyard beasts, and baby Jesus resting in a soggy pizza box because the manger was missing as a tawdry spectacle worth of wicked derision.

I might have rendered wise ass opinion right then and there, but had I not, held off, and surveyed the strange and dilapidated single-wide manufactured home whose occupants install this beleaguered nativity scene every season, and then also surveyed the yard, I would have thought O holy shit rather than O holy night and doubled down on my smug judgment because a nativity scene couldn’t, shouldn’t, possibly exist in such a dump of a setting. And then there was also the nearby Trump/Pence sign and all that was satanic about that to undermine the sanctity of the creche.

When I say strange and dilapidated, believe me, those adjectives are sorely lacking.

The home sinks likes a scuttled ship on rough seas. There are dozens of children’s toys strewn about the yard, but there are no kids ever around, only a hundred mole hills. A tiny shattered greenhouse grows blackberries and English ivy. There are dozens of garden and shop tools disintegrating on the ground. A firewood pile of construction scraps heaves against the side of the house. A basketball hoop splays on the driveway. A rusted vehicle up on blocks will never drive away again.

And that’s the way it looks before regular wind storms topple the nativity scene into something resembling a nativity orgy. It is often days before the figures stand upright in solemn decency and sometimes I intervene to assist because I simply can’t stand seeing one of the Wise Men doing what he’s doing to the sheep!

As I said, I would have instantly judged this not so long ago, but I learned the hard way that such judging at first glance or first read or first listen is a fatal flaw of humanity, and Americans are easily the worst of the judges. Their popular culture thrives on it.

There is always more to the story than instant judgment provides, which is in fact, no story at all, merely mindless and soulless, knee jerk thought. It’s the most reckless and dangerous mental activity a person can inflict upon another person or group of people. It is tantamount to the existential murder of a human being, and in some cases, real murder after the effects of digital stoning lead someone to suicide.

But back to the nativity scene. Whoever lives in this home would seem utterly lost based on the shabby and bizarre appearance of the home and grounds, and perhaps they are. I’ll never know unless I meet them one day. I want to, but have never seen a single soul there in the past four years. To me, the place exudes a terrible loss of some kind, but that might be a writer’s roaming imagination.

So here this holiday season during the Pandemic is to non judgment and taking The World’s Most Forlorn Nativity Scene in a different direction, guided by facts and measured deductions.

Whoever lives in this home gets off their ass every holiday season and sets up this nativity scene. Maybe a dozen people will ever see it, including me. Perhaps this act of setting up this nativity scene is an act of survival or salvation for the home’s occupants. They do nothing with the yard and house for 11 months out of the year, and then they muster the energy and spirit to install the scene, wrap it in lights, run a power cord to it, and select a pizza box of a suitable savior size. I have written this before and I’ll plagiarize myself here, which really isn’t plagiarizing because I wrote it:

Never, ever, underestimate the saving power of an outdoor secular or religious holiday lighting display on a beleaguered, suffering soul. One flashing Grinch on a roof or a glowing angel in an upstairs window might prevent a hanging in the basement or shooting up a shopping mall.

This Christmas season, whenever I feel blue, and right now it feels like a Pacific Ocean and Johnny Lee Hooker amount of blues, I get off my ass and walk the quarter mile to this most forlorn nativity scene in the world, take it in, let it glow, and smile a bit because it is not The Most Forlorn Nativity Scene in the World.

There is no such thing.