Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006 | As this hallowed stage of the Christmas season neared, my father would have been reading Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” aloud to the family. Instead of flicking on the “News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” as I do these evenings, to be battered with yet another chapter in mankind’s folly, my father called mother and us four children to take our places around a fireplace crackling as it flared with Southern pine.

In a powerful voice that would have awed Lionel Barrymore, he read a few pages from Dickens to us each night. On Christmas Eve, after the house grew quiet, he tacked quilts over the windows in his study, where Santa arrived, and joined my mother in stuffing stockings tied beside the children’s beds. I believed in Santa Claus as long as I reasonably could, until quite late one Christmas Eve when, in the dark, I heard my father filling my stocking and decided it would not be fair to him or to me to open my eyes. My belief in seasonal magic has strengthened over years because I choose, for these brief days, to recognize only the decency in mankind.

I am astonished that my mail carrier continues to climb 17 steps to rap on my office door and shout a daily greeting. If the teenage helpers at Vons are as pleasant at home as they are on duty, their parents and mentors deserve the very brightest Christmas. I am cheered that our grandson Adam is flying home from Russia, after learning what it is like to spend a college term on the Irkutsk campus in Siberia. Once the temperature dips below zero for a week, he wrote, weathermen there no longer bother saying ‘plus’ or ‘minus.’ However, if Adam switches my computer language over to Russian, as he did before he departed, I may lock up his Christmas presents.

As it is a season of miracles, we begin to believe that the worst is over in our fraudulent City Hall humiliations, and even to dare for unselfish civility in Washington. It is a time to thank our police and fire protectors, our newspaper carriers, and the city people who may someday again sweep my street. At this generous season, I wish we were still exchanging Christmas music concerts with the talented musicians of Tijuana. And while we are dreaming of gifts, that those thousands of wasted man hours at our border could be put to work.

And I wish a merry Christmas to the growing numbers of San Diegans who understand the urgency of a second daily media voice in this city, and who therefore support

There are thousands of happy Christmas stories in this city that we will never hear or know, but would welcome hearing yours. And as each of you goes about creating these untold stories, please know that each of us who loves this city is grateful too.

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