Well, Sweet Friends and Visitors,
I have had nothing but trouble with my computer recently. A few days ago, a huge virus hit and I cannot access the Internet. So...another trip to the Geek Squad. I am now using the library computer for my posts, but it means few links and no pictures. This is seriously de-railing my plans for the Christmas countdown.
Therefore, I am having to rely more heavily on stories to bring a Christmas Spirit to this blog.
Today, I would like to share a personal story, which I hope will be uplifting for you.
When I was single and living on my own in Los Angeles, most of my Christmases were spent by myself. My friends would leave for home and hearth, but my family was across the U.S. My vacations home, when I could get there, were usually in the Springtime. So, I was generally on my own for the holidays. I didn't feel alone at all. I had celebrations at work and with some friends who were local, but I loved having Christmas to myself, because I could really focus on the Savior and feel communion with Him. It also gave me wonderful opportunities to go out into the community to serve.
My most precious Christmas memory in Los Angeles, though, happened with a sweet friend, who I will refer to as M.
I first met M. and her mother, L., through my church. I was assigned with my roommate, C., to visit them monthly to see to their needs and to bring a spiritual message. L. was an elderly single parent, caring for her daughter, M., who was wheelchair bound. Years before I met them, M. had suffered through a terrible attack, where she was raped and beaten about the head so badly that she began to have epileptic seisures and lost the use of her legs. She and her mother were both ailing, destitute and had lived for a time on the streets. Now, they were in a tiny house, windows nailed shut by the landlord (is that legal?), living amidst refuse, stacks of horded materials of various kinds, and their beloved pets.
The first time I walked through their door, I was hit with a stench that is difficult to describe. They were doing the best they could, but the mother was decrepit and unable to keep the place clean. Sometimes trips to the bathroom weren't made in time and so there was some excrement on the floors that L. could not see to clean up. They had no family support and, frankly, so many people were put off by the filth in the house, that even church members had a hard time coming to visit or help. This is the world that we stepped into when C. and I first went to visit.
During the first visit, I found that after awhile my senses became habituated to the environment and didn't bother me so much. Then, I could focus on this sweet woman and her daughter. They were so grateful for any little kindness sent their way and would adopt into their family anyone at all who showed caring for them. Their circumstances frankly both broke my heart and humbled my spirit, because I had so much more in health and resources than did these two and yet they refused to give up, to hold grudges or to lose faith that life would get better.
Over the first few years that I knew them, C. and I made big plans on how to change their lives and help M. and L. live better. Most of these plans, required L. and M. to change in certain ways that they could not find the strength or understanding to do. This was the point at which many of their friends in the past left them in frustration. I arrived at that point one Sunday as I sat outside their home visiting with them. It was then that I felt the voice of the Lord in my heart asking me if I could just love them. I realized that it is easier to come in and try to resolve problems than it is to just accept someone as they are and then LOVE. But that day, I felt the Lord ask me if I could do just that and I found myself answering that I would, that I could.
Over the ensuing years, even after my church assignment to care for them was over, our relationship with M. and L. continued. C. and I would take M. to church with us (the mother had too many accidents to go out of her home much). We took M. to movies and out to dinner. We helped out some with cleaning or giving M. baths. We became a sort of family.
One Christmas Eve, while C. was away in New York for the holidays, I went over to M. and L.'s to spread some Christmas cheer. I offered to take M. to a special neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley which is famous for the Christmas lights. As we drove through the beautiful neigborhood displays, with the radio playing Christmas music, the song "Silent Night" came on. There in the car, M. and I turned to each other and began to sing "Silent Night, Holy Night". Immediately, a very sweet spirit filled the car, a very sacred, holy feeling. I knew that M., due to her circumstances, had probably not sang Christmas songs in years and that this would be her only celebration. My heart literally brimmed over with love and thankfulness. I became acutely aware that moments like these are what make up a true Christmas. They are the whole reason.
Later I took M. home and went home myself. The sweet feeling from the car lasted all that night and into the next day, making that particular Christmas, when I was "alone", one of the most meaningful I have ever had in my life.
Shortly after that evening, M. suffered a grand mal seizure and lost the memory of our Christmas Eve together. It is my hope and prayer that one day in the Resurrection, when M. is restored to a healthy, whole body and mind, her memory of the tender evening we spent together will be restored.
So, my thoughts about this are that often we gauge how good a Christmas is by the amount or type of presents we receive, or are able to give to our children, or by the fun we have. Taken in moderation, these are fine things. But the real feeling of whether or not we have had a "good Christmas" is really by the caring that is shared. Because it is in the spreading of Christ's love among our family, friends, acquaintances and, yes, even strangers, that Christmas becomes a transformative experience and leaves us as better people, with a greater capacity to love.
Have a lovely day!