Perennial Jackass

When I was ten, all I wanted was to be an angel.

I ended up making an ass of myself, so to speak.

During my childhood, I was in the church Christmas Pageant every year. Due to my age, I was often relegated to the role of a farm animal. And because my kangaroo headdress from an old Halloween costume resembled donkey ears, I got stuck as the donkey for a couple of years. I mean, it’s supposed to be a very noble donkey and all, having escorted Mary around while she was carrying Jesus, but the idea wasn’t exactly appealing to me. I sure did get a lot of “Awwwww” and “How precious!” comments from parents and elderly churchgoers as I toddled up the aisle with a bell around my neck, leading the teenage girl playing Mary.

However, once I reached a double-digit age, I was determined to earn my wings. The winter of my fourth grade year, I wanted to be an angel – I wanted to trade the donkey ears for feathers and a halo, and join the heavenly host at last!

As soon as the lists were posted, I signed up to be an angel. I certainly wasn’t the only one; every girl (and a boy or two) in my age bracket wanted to don a robe and wings. And, because fate is a fickle mistress, there was a significantly higher number of kids signed up to be angels as opposed to lowly farm animals.

And, unfortunately, there weren’t enough angel costumes to go around. So it was decided, by the all-powerful volunteer Sunday school teachers, that the youngest angels would have to surrender their brand new tinsel-and-pipe-cleaner halos for cow horns or a sheep headdress…. or, in my case, the donkey ears that I knew all too well.

Needless to say, I was devastated. I had waited years to be an angel, only to have my wings torn from me at the last minute. I could have kicked and screamed and demanded to be an angel, but (mercifully) ten-year-old me had more sense than that. But seriously, no child wants to be a perennial jackass. I had been recast after landing my dream role, and, to a kid, that’s a pretty big deal and a huge blow.

I briefly considered quitting the pageant altogether, but, in the end, I did not allow myself to wallow for long. I ultimately decided to suck it up and just resign myself to donkey-dom for another year. I mean… if I didn’t escort Mary to the manger, how was Jesus going to be born? Not to brag or anything, but the donkey is a pretty pivotal role.

Regardless of my heartbreak, I dutifully fulfilled my role as the noble donkey. I went on to be a magnificent mule companion, tagging along with Mary as she tried to find room at the inn (spoiler alert: there was no room at the inn.) I received many an “Aw, how precious!” that year.

And you know what? It wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t get what I wanted, but I still got to participate. Though my dreams had been grounded before they could fully take off, I rolled with the hand I was dealt. I did not know if I would ever have a chance to ascend into angel-dom, but I wore the donkey ears proudly.

The next year, I still did not get to be an angel. In fact I aged out of the pageant without ever getting a halo. The next year, I was granted a new opportunity. I got to be the narrator, one of the most coveted roles, and typically reserved for an older child or teen. Sure, the role basically sparked a lifelong, crippling fear of public speaking, but that’s not the point. At the time, it was a proud moment for me, and I was happy to accept the role because it made all those years of being a donkey worth it

The point is, you don’t always get what you want. Sometimes, you never do. But that doesn’t mean something better won’t come along; all you have to do is keep going, put in your best effort to everything you so, and hold the faith. That way, you won’t be doomed to be a perennial jackass for eternity.


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