Episode 11, of season 2 of The Twilight Zone, in 1960 was entitled The Night of the Meek. The story was written by Rod Serling, produced by Buck Houghton, and directed by Jack Smight. The message of this show is as relevant today, as it was more than 50 years ago.
The first time I saw this episode was in July, of 2002. I found it quite charming, and filled with what used to be known as the true Christmas spirit. A time of wide eyed innocence, when Christmas elicited excitement and wonder in a child. And simple toys were truly a pleasure and delight on Christmas morn.
The main cast members of The Night of the Meek were: Henry Corwin played by Art Carney , and Mr. Dundee portrayed by John Fielder. In my opinion, this is Carney’s greatest performance. Carney’s Corwin is a dime store Santa Claus with a drinking problem. On Christmas Eve, he goes to a bar during his break. After the bartender refuses to give him more to drink, Corwin wanders back to the retail store, where he is informed by Mr. Dundee, that he no longer has a job.
Corwin displays a heart of compassion for the meek, the street urchins, and impoverished children of his neighborhood. They come to him asking him for Christmas gifts. One girl asks Santa for a job for her daddy. Corwin is overwhelmed by their plight, adn wishes he could do something to help them.
While walking through the snow, he finds a sack, from which he pulls everyone’s hearts desire. He goes to a mission and gives the homeless men Christmas gifts. Sister Florence, who runs the mission leaves the building and returns with officer Flaherty, and Mr. Dundee. Both accuse Corwin of distributing stolen goods.
When Dundee puts his hand in the bag, he pulls out old cans and a cat. Corwin then pulls out a vintage bottle of wine, and gives it to the two men. He then goes through the neighborhood giving gifts to all the children. I enjoy how each child is completely satisfied to get the one gift from the bag.
When the sack is empty, Corwin drops it. As he is sitting on some steps, one of the men from the mission points out that Corwin has provided for everyone else, yet he himself received no Christmas gift from the bag. Corwin responds that he has received his gift, by giving. And adds that he would like to be the biggest gift giver of all time, and spread Christmas joy every year.
As he rounds a corner, he finds a sleigh, reindeer and an elf waiting for him. They take off in the sleigh and fly away into the night. Officer Flaherty and Mr Dungee emerge quite tipsy, from a building and observe Corwin flying through the sky in the sleigh. They acknowledge what they have seen, and Dundee ends the episode by saying they will go home, drink some coffee, and thank God for miracles.
The main message in this often played episode is reaching out to those in need. There is however, a deeper meaning to this Christmas tale. Henry Corwin is considered a drunk, and a loser. It is he however, and not someone society may deem more worthy, who receives the honor to become Santa Claus, and give to those in need at Christmas.
I think of the Savior who told us to look out for the least of these, and said the meek shall inherit the earth. And of David, who was the least of 7 siblings, yet the Creator chose him, to be king, and ancestor to His Son. In Rod Serling’s genius, he brings this point home, and keeps the focus of the holiday where it should be, on those who have the most need.