Don’t know if it’s been true in anyone else’s world, but in this writer’s, there was a whole lot of the Christmas Spirit about, over the holiday.
Maybe the forces of good have been around so strongly because we have been plagued for so long by the forces of divisiveness and anger. We all needed a little boost, and in my corner of the world, we certainly got it – times three.
Christmas Story #1: Refugee Family
It all started with a leader whom many respect and admire, who met a family with great need and was moved to help.
That leader motivated his staff - a group of people whose profession is to do good in the world – to pitch in. What started as a request for comfort so that a family’s children could sleep better has been answered with so much more – both literally and figuratively.
At this writing, the family has, or will soon receive, beds and bedding for everyone, a dining table and chairs, a large sectional couch, and some much-needed kitchen equipment.
During a recent visit, the father said that the family has never had furniture, and when they visited others who did, his daughters wished they had beds – especially the younger girls.
They have verbally expressed their gratitude many times, and have shown their appreciation by preparing a delicious feast for their benefactors – twice.
As this story has unfolded, food has been the medium of cultural exchange, and it has been this writer’s privilege to introduce this family to a truly American example (Waldorf Salad, minus the nuts). I thought they might really enjoy a salad made of apples, celery, raisins and mayo, because the balance of flavors is probably similar to foods in their own cuisine.
But apple salad is made with produce grown here, and dressed with mayo made here. The six-year-old was one of the first to try it. Her face showed interest, then a split-second “ugh – this is awful!” frown – but she landed on a grin. “It’s good,” she said. That emboldened everyone else to try it, which was so much fun!
As this trio of stories has unfolded, life has already gotten better for this family of 11. The father is doing well after his kidney surgery, the family has furniture - and even a washer and dryer – and there are enough kitchen utensils, including chopping knives, to go around.
But the Christmas spirit didn’t stop there.
Christmas Story #2: The Violin
In the second story, the Christmas Spirit sent the perfect, and perfectly unexpected gift.
This writer took a pan of brownies by for Chief Gregory and the Fire Department, when, thanks to a truly generous gift from one of our corporate citizens, they happened to have some really wonderful things to share – including some violins. There were a few more of them than were needed, as it turned out.
Here’s the thing: Just a few days before I came upon this small cache of violins, of all things, my dyed-in-the-wool rock-&-roller husband, who happens to be a musician, had expressed an interest in learning to play:
For. The. First. Time. Ever.
And I had been a little worried, because I hadn’t found anything very special for him for Christmas. And he’d put up with my being so busy with the refugee family in the run-up to the holiday. So when I spotted those fiddles, I knew one of them was meant for him.
I believe it was sent to him because my work, which takes up a lot of my life, had kept me even busier than usual over the holiday. He’d listened patiently and eaten takeout as I’d lived and breathed the immigrant family’s story, and didn’t say a word when I was occupied well into the evening on Christmas Eve.
The violin was the perfect gift, and I couldn’t wait to present it!
But I did have to wait – until after he presented me with a very useful piece of furniture that I hadn’t known we needed or, indeed, even existed – a shoe bench. For years, we’ve been wandering from room to room, shoes in hand, never finding quite the right place to sit, to put them on. The shoe bench is perfect. Not too low, like the couch, or too high, like the dining room chairs. Just right. And, for some reason, the dogs don’t seem to need to get right in your face to help you tie your shoes – definitely a bonus!
So finally, the moment arrived. Out came the suspiciously-shaped box, sporting three turquoise bows. Even as he opened the box and spotted the case inside, he didn’t quite seem to believe what he was seeing. Don’t recall him ever being at such a loss for words!
That was another lovely dose of the Christmas Spirit, but it wasn’t over yet.
Christmas Story #3: The Blessing
This last is a little personal. Some of us haven’t spent a lot of holidays (or birthdays, or whatever) with the family. Somehow, it was easier to be otherwise occupied whenever they all got together.
But one of the problems with taking a break from family activities is that, the longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to face that inevitable first big event. Sometimes, it can even take something major to get everyone in the same room.
And it’s so much easier, if no one feels they’re going it alone.
It’s truly a blessing if everybody can try to come together with open arms and minds. Whatever the differences, hopefully everyone will try to be kind. An awkward moment or two probably shouldn’t take anybody by surprise, but those can disappear in an instant. A bit of humor, an arm around a shoulder, and the moment passes.
This was not the first occasion we’ve all been together, though it’s recent enough that at least one of us is still figuring out how to join in the banter around the dinner table.
But it was the first time that all three generations of the family have stood together and held hands for a blessing before a meal. I’d like to think that marked the beginning of a tradition.
We were truly blessed by the Christmas Spirit in our corner of the world this holiday season, and grateful to be lifted up by a solid dose of good cheer to start the new decade.
But the Christmas Spirit doesn’t have to end with the holiday season. We can all get a little burst of good cheer now and then, all year, if we just do something for somebody else. All it takes is to act on that impulse you get to wave to a new neighbor. Smile at a stranger who looks like they’re having a tough day. Or bake cookies for someone you might not know very well, but who may be going through a rough patch (although you might not know that, until you drop the cookies by).
The Christmas Spirit reminds us to be aware of one another, with an eye to making each others’ lives better in some way – grand or subtle. And while we are focused on that, the Spirit will be busy working small miracles for us.
Happy 2020! Here’s hoping you find the joy in doing something good for someone else over the coming days and months, and make time to enjoy the people in your part of the world often this year.