Parson to Person: “6 Feet Long and 3 Feet Wide,” Dec. 23, 2020

When you receive this Northliner it will probably be Christmas. I’m not sure how many of you will be reading this today, but in case any of you are, I wrote this little column in advance–for your perusal. (Or not.)

Years ago, there was a church in New York that wanted to put up a sign in front of the building for Christmas that would read “Unto Us a Child Is Born.” The person who was supposed to order the sign, though, forgot what it was supposed to say, and what dimensions it was supposed to be. So he wired the pastor for the information. And the telegraph operator at Western Union nearly fainted when she typed up the return message:

Unto Us a Child Is Born

                                                        6 Feet Long

                                                     and 3 Feet Wide

Sometimes typographical errors make me not just laugh but think (as you probably know by now, if you are a regular reader of my Parson to Person columns!). I remember an article in my local paper once, for example, that announced an awards meal to take place at a church in Burlington named Messiah Lutheran Church. The title for the article was: “Messiah Hosts Banquet.” The first thought that went through my mind was: How did an editor miss this? My second was: What would a Messiah include on his or her menu, who would attend, and how would you know if it was the real Messiah?

Some Christmas typos I’ve enjoyed over the years (besides the ones I mentioned last week): “Joy to the World, the Savior Resigns”; “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Me”; and “I Heard the Bills on Christmas Day.”

If there’s a lesson to be learned in any of this, maybe it’s that mistakees (typographical or otherwise) often give us food for thought. As someone once put it: “Good judgment comes from experience; and a lot of experience comes from bad judgment.”

So let’s hear it for mistakes, and the lessons they teach us. And may 2021 be a year of success born of failure, and good judgment built on bad.

Which is perhaps another way of saying…

peace and unrest,


P.S. If you noticed my misspelling of “mistake” above, it actually wasn’t on purpose. (In other words, “mistakee” was a mistake!) But when Lyn pointed it out to me, I decided to leave it in as is. It’s an example of how mistakes make it into print despite the best of intentions. It’s like the correction in a newspaper that said: “We regret the error in yesterday’s paper saying that Dave Hanson is a member of the Burlington Polish Force. Mr. Hanson is, of course, a member of the Burlington Police Farce.”