Random thoughts in the middle of the season ……..
I’ve not done any shopping yet. I know people who completed theirs last summer. In fact, I even know one person who does all her Christmas shopping for the coming year the week after every Christmas. She says it’s when you get the best discounts. As for me, I’ve not even started yet. I promise myself every year not to be running around for those last few items on Christmas Eve. I always break my promise. Maybe it’s part of my own personal holiday tradition.
I was channel surfing over the weekend. For less than a minute I stopped on Curious George. I used to watch that with my children when they were small, so it reminded me of days I cherish and often miss. Anyway, this episode was about George in a Santa cap bringing December mischief (and joy) to the man in the yellow hat. I thought about how many children will watch that and laugh, despite the hard realities of the world around us. I could learn from them. Life is difficult, but there is always reason for laughter. As the book of Proverbs reminds us, “Laughter does good like a medicine.”
I miss people this year. We’ve lost some lovely souls in our church family. They cannot be replaced. But their memory inspires me to become more like them – better and bolder, kinder and more compassionate. Through the influence others leave behind, in a real sense they are still with us.
I spotted an obituary in my hometown newspaper last night. I don’t even know why I went on line and looked at that column. I almost never do. But last night I did, and there it was – a photo and obituary of Jim. He was my next door neighbor growing up. In high school we were best friends. The he went off to college and the military. I went off to college and seminary. We married. We had families and jobs. We were busy and lost contact. Once in a while when visiting in NC I would think of looking him up. I even tried once, unsuccessfully. “Oh well,” I thought, “one of these days ….” I read the article about him last night. He was a good man of deep faith. His picture still looked just like the kid I knew half a century ago. I wish I’d tried harder to look him up. I would have loved to sit with him and recall our times of youth. I would have loved to remind him that miles and years notwithstanding, I still thought of him as my friend.
I believe many of us were programmed to experience guilt, even when we have no reason for feeling guilty. Case in point: I walked past a man on a street corner the other day. He was holding a paper cup and asking for assistance from passersby. I had no money on me – not even a dime. So, I apologized to him. I told him I was sorry, but I didn’t have anything to give. He said, “Not a problem.” But I persisted. “Seriously, my wallet is empty. I’d help you otherwise. Honest.” He smiled and answered, “I believe you, and it’s okay. Don’t let it take the Merry out of your Christmas!” Funny – I thought I was supposed to give something of worth to him, but it turned out to be the other way around.
Every year we have a beautiful Christmas tree in the cul-de-sac at the end of our street. It’s always large and full and covered with white lights. This year apparently whoever purchases the tree didn’t get the memo. It’s the most pitiful thing you’ve ever seen. It is skinny and has big gaps where there are no branches at all. I wonder if even Charlie Brown would see any potential in it. One night this week I stood and looked at it, thinking to myself, “If that’s the best you can do, you shouldn’t have done anything at all!” A father and son paused nearby. They were walking their dog before bedtime. The child looked at the tree and said, “Wow, Daddy! Isn’t that the best thing ever?” Another Christmas gift from an unlikely source – the eyes of the soul that see beauty in unlikely things. “A little child shall lead them.”