SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 92: The Krampus Killers

From Left to Right, Wendy and Shari

I’m listening to the radio; a story comes on about an obscure year-end holiday, Krampuslauf, an Austrian celebration that takes place every December 5th.

Where on the eve of St. Nicholas’s Day, Austrians celebrate the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run). In folklore, the Krampus is a devilish companion of St. Nicholas who punishes bad children just as St. Nicholas rewards good ones. The Krampus, represented by costumed revelers, is usually depicted as a dark, hairy, cloven-hooved beast with red horns, a leering mouth, chains and a switch.

It’s like this; Krampus and Saint Nicholas work a kind of good cop-bad cop routine. Saint Nick rewards the good children; Krampus terrorizes the bad.

Really, Santa in a good cop, bad cop deal. Not too sure if I buy it?

Terrorize children into making right choices. Sure, I guess, if done in good fun.

I do a bit of Google searching and find the face of the Krampus hideous and the energy of the event more like a Mardi Gras, or at least an amped up Halloween. A fun thing to research, but in the end, I like my version of Christmas and Hanukkah just the way they are, a loving celebration of light and faith.

Why do I share all this? I don’t know? But somehow it does relate to a thought shared with me by one of today’s friends, Shari.

I run into her in my family shopping rounds when my wife suggests, “We are going to the dollar store, after last nights story of Lucy, and her work for women’s rights, you might want to interview the ladies that are taking donations outside the store.”

I really love my wife; she is way inspired and brings me up to speed, “They are out every year collecting contributions for the local women’s shelter. I bet an interview from one of them would be a great follow up to Lucy’s story.”

Normally I would not quest an angle, but Lucy’s mission so rocked my world, that following my wife’s suggested thread just feels right in my heart.

So with the knowledge of controlled dollar shopping happening, always scary to let my nine year old loose to spend in any store, I say hello to Shari.

Back to the Krampus and it’s mission to scare children into doing right. I’m grasping here, but think of the Krampus as an anti-humanitarian, teaching kids to fear, or possibly tempt them to cover up their mistakes in cheating to get rewarded for being good.

Enters Shari the Krampus killer, all is well!

Her wishes for the children: “We need to make the world a better place. Take care of it for the younger generation, and we need to do it before it’s too late. I remember these words from my parents, and it is important for us all to pass that wisdom on.”

What’s even more cool about Shari is her work, raising funds for homeless and abused women, that includes their children. What a link to Lucy’s work.

“I have two kids of my own, a 22 year old and a 20 year old. Both of them know how I feel about the future,” Shari states.

She goes on to give me her observances of society. “I’ve been setting up here for six years. I see a lot people come in and out of the stores. Too many of them are stressed and not even looking up at each other. It’s a shame that at a time of year which is all about love, faith and family, I see too many people who do not see each other.”

Her message in that observation: “People need to slow down and notice each other. They sometimes just look through me, that makes me sad for them.”

Sad for them, not hurt, no angry, sad for them. The holidays really do bring out the best and worst, don’t they?

So I say, squash the Krampus! Long live good old Saint Nick!

My daughter is now standing by my side, happy to say, with only a small shopping bag. I look at her, then back at Shari, “Thank your for telling your kids that to take care of the world. In a way, they are responsible for the planet my daughter will be living on. You are teaching them well.”

Shari is full of love, it radiates from her. As we talk several people slip folded bills into her donation box. She responds to them with a warm thank you.

Suddenly, I’m surrounded by several homeless men and women, all very well kept and articulate. “Shari smiles huge, “You’ve got to interview Wendy, she’ll have a lot to say.”

Before I can say hello, I’m engulfed by the biggest hug I have experienced in years. “I’m a hugger, I hope you don’t mind. Any friend of Shari’s is a friend of mine. What’s you name?” Wendy exuberantly exclaims as she introduces herself.

There is a special spirit about Wendy, and accompanied by an enormous sense of humor, she carries a mantle of safety about her. What do I mean mantle of safety? She is a protector, I can just tell. I knew it in her hug, and by the respect she receives by Shari and the others I am introduced to.

New faces are descending on me. What are you taking pictures for? Great idea! Can I be in it? Yet there is one fart-in-the-divers suit. The driver of the shuttle that is transporting my new friends back to the shelter, seems he is suffering a terrible case of horn hand.

But even with the rush to take photos and interview, we find enough time to talk about the purpose of 365 and why I’m doing the project. The honking is now getting aggressive and frequent.

With a politely delivered, “We’ll be there in a second.” Wendy calms the storm for a minute or two.

We do get time for her to share a few rather deep thoughts:

“The Bible say, be obedient.”

“Listen to your mom and dad and your days will be longer on earth.”

“Keep your eyes focused on good.”

“We will all be together in the new Jerusalem.”

On the lighter side:

I’m homeless, but living with my Niece. If anyone has a house for me, I would be greatly appreciative?”

Honks are unstoppable now. Time to run.