You know that naughty-or-nice list that jolly old St. Nicholas keeps all year long? Well, this year he doesn't have to wait until Dec. 24 before he pulls out his Sharpie for the last time.
I am more than willing to be one of his proverbial helpers by lending a hand on events of 2011 that occurred inside, outside and beyond the Capital Beltway.
First stop, and a timely one at that, is Leesburg, Va., where the reason for the season has been pushed aside by the likes of a skeleton Santa Claus mounted on a cross, pirates standing by as the "Virgin Mary" cradles a pasta-and-meatball "Baby Jesus" and a return of the Jedi warriors.
Santa also need not visit Jerry Sandusky, the nasty former assistant football coach at Penn State whose list of child-sex allegations is longer than the can-I-sit-on-Santa's-lap? lines at the mall. Seeking help from Santa won't help Mr. Sandusky, who should send his appeals to a much high authority.
Closer in, other underlined names on the naughty list include those of Jack Johnson, the former county executive of Prince George's County and former top prosecutor; liquor store owner Amrik Melhi and police Sgt. Richard Delabrer. Their unraveling pay-to-play scheme muddied the true meaning of democracy.
In the District, City Hall tops the list. While the laws and policies passed and implemented in 2011 are impossible to enumerate, suffice it to say term limits were not included in the ethics-reform legislation and the 13-member D.C. Council and the mayor are Cheech and Chong times seven. The District's extremely liberal take on so-called medical marijuana is embarrassing for a city designated as the nation's capital.
But enough with naughty characters, and on with the nice.
Numerous are the individuals and organizations that have bestowed goodwill toward their fellow man throughout the year, and Santa should reward some of them for helping push young people beyond the far-reaching tentacles of low self-esteem and hopelessness.
The nice list includes D.C. Teacher of the Year Perea Brown-Blackmon, a Montessori specialist at Langdon Education Campus in Northeast Washington who teaches third- and fourth-graders and is raising nine children with her husband, Jonathan, who also is a teacher. Asked what was her guiding light and inspiration to enter the teaching profession, she smiled from ear to ear and told me her aunt Laurice Juggins. "She showed me the way and kept me focused."
Mrs. Brown-Blackmon, who has been at Langdon for 17 years and whose teaching style is lauded by parents and reflected in her students, also said she was at once humble and proud of her achievement. And know what? Watching Mrs. Brown-Blackmon's students so readily hug, grin at and congratulate her surely brought a glint to Santa's eye.
It's that sense of purpose, responsibility and work, and collective work ethic that helped the coaching staff of the Marshall Heights Bison youth football team lead their players to be undefeated and become the 55th Pop Warner Division 1 Pee Wee National Football Champions this month. As every parent, teacher and coach knows, it's not easy getting tweens to complete their assignments. But these boys accepted their coaches' challenge, reflecting a measurable level of discipline that often is missing in today's youths. (A special wink to Bison assistant coach Donta Herrod, who, following graduation from H.D. Woodson, played football at Syracuse and returned home to give back to his community.)
I'd be remiss not to put the ever-ready Red Cross, the faithful warriors of the Salvation Army and the do-gooders at the Greater Washington Urban League on the nice list. Day in and out, these organizations carry out their respective humanitarian missions to aid whether they are asked or not.
We depend on them to be our brothers' and sisters' keepers — with life-giving blood services and job and homeownership opportunities, as well clothing and the word the God. They even untangle the red tape of government bureaucracy. Even St. Nick doesn't have to think twice about such organizations as he double-checks his list.
Oh, and don't think I forgot about the White House and Congress making the naughty list, too — as usual.
Have a blessed Merry Christmas.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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