A mannequin dressed as the Grinch greets visitors at the Times Free Press's HoHo Expo at the Chattanooga Convention Center in 2016.

Silent night

The older woman's packages — probably Christmas gifts — were on the wet ground beside her SUV when he approached his car at Hamilton Place mall last week. Her driver's side door was aligned with his, preventing him from entering his car.

She was bent over, fumbling with her key fob, and it was evident if he'd walked up she would have been startled. What to do?

Instead, he walked around his car and approached from the side she was facing. If he said, "Excuse me, this is my car," he might have been in the vehicle and out of the area in mere moments. But that wasn't the right thing to do at Christmas time or any other time of year.

"Can I help you in any way?" he asked, hoping not to be seen as a potential mugger. "This is my car, but I'd be glad to help you."

"I can't get into my car," she said. "The key won't work."

He said something about remote key fobs, about his brother having to replace one and about their being rather expensive. She handed him her keys for him to have a look.

He looked at the key fob, then looked at her door, which could be unlocked the old-fashioned way, using the key. How to say it diplomatically?

"I think," he said, "you might be able to unlock it the regular way with the key."

He handed her the keys, she tried one in the door and unlocked it. She looked at him, sheepish but grateful.

He shrugged, smiled and got in his car, where, after more than six years, he still didn't know how to operate all the buttons and toggles.

Nevertheless, all was calm, all was bright.


Drop that candy cane, Mister

The University of Minnesota reined in a memo last week that originated in its Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office that advised recipients to keep "inappropriate religious celebrations" out of public spaces.

The "religious iconography" deemed inappropriate included "Santa Claus, Angels, Christmas trees, Star of Bethlehem, Dreidels, Nativity scene, Bows/wrapped gifts, Menorah, Bells, Doves, Red and Green or Blue and White/Silver decoration themes (red and green are representative of the Christian tradition as blue and white/silver are for Jewish Hanukkah that is also celebrated at this time of year)."

The office said recipients, instead, should "consider neutral-themed parties such as a 'winter celebration.' Decorations, music, and food should be general and not specific to any one religion."

Employees and students workers were encouraged to report violators of "inappropriate religious celebrations in their work or learning environment."

Apparently apprised of the release of the "Religious Diversity and the Holidays" memo, the university distanced itself from it, calling it an "ill-advised" missive from "one individual that was not distributed broadly" and was a part of a diversity training session.

Oblivious of the obvious, a university representative simply declared, "There is no 'Religious Diversity and the Holidays' memo."


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch

In some cities and towns, where the lack of tolerance is such that the age of the child is not taken into consideration in non-criminal misdeeds, the 5-year-old boy might have been jailed, or severely scolded.

Fortunately, in Byram, Miss., when TyLon Pittman called 911 recently to report the Grinch was trying to steal Christmas, a kind officer showed up to check — just in case someone actually was trying to steal something.

But, no, the boy in the Jackson suburb had been watching videos, had become alarmed at the evil intentions of the slimy, green Dr. Seuss creature, and, probably as he'd been instructed if he were in trouble, he called the emergency line. He even told his mom, Teresa Pittman, who was a bit skeptical that he'd done so. But, in fact, an officer showed up at the door.

Young Tylon will be ready if the Grinch ever does appear, though. He said he will wrestle the individual Seuss termed "a nasty wasty skunk" and "king of sinful sots" and hold him until the police show up.


Unholy Donut

A Portland, Maine., doughnut shop recently severed its ties with the Salvation Army, which it had partnered with in an effort to provide Christmas gifts for five needy children, after LGBT activists said the organization had discriminated in the past against individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The Holy Donut had committed to give a doughnut to any person donating presents or winter clothing for the children, but its owners caved to pressure from the activists and declared the shop does "not support the Salvation Army or consider them our 'partner' for this project." They went on to say in a Facebook post that they "apologize to anyone they have offended."

The Salvation Army, in a statement, refuted any claims of discrimination, "a phantom" it said it must fight "most heavily during the red kettle season."

"The Salvation Army is open and inclusive to all people," it said. "Anyone who comes through our doors will receive help based on their need and our capacity to assist. ... We annually serve around 30 million Americans from a variety of backgrounds — we do not pick and choose who we serve based on religion, sexual orientation or any other factor."

The activists, who had threatened a boycott of the doughnut shop, were unmoved at the retail establishment's declaration and continued to post — or encourage others to post — poor reviews of the Holy Donut.

The needy children? Sadly, they seem to have been forgotten in the politics.